Military spending in NATO countries continues to dwarf equivalent spending in Russia and the gap widened in 2017, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Data provided by the organisation which studies conflict, weapons and arms control found that Russia slipped from third to fourth place in the table of states with the highest military expenditure. Moscow spent $66.3 billion in 2017, nearly three billion dollars less than the previous year.
Relative to the country’s economy, this represented a fall of a full percentage point: Russia spent 4.3% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year, compared to 5.3% in 2016.
In contrast, the United States spent nearly ten times as much: its reported figure of $610 billion is in line with US expenditure over the past few years.
Total military spending by all 29 NATO countries was $900 billion in 2017, accounting for 52% of world spending according to SIPRI.
Europe playing catch-up
In March NATO reported three consecutive years of increased defence spending among countries in the North Atlantic alliance “for the first time in many years”, after a significant period where expenditure had fallen.
SIPRI found that military expenditure in Central Europe rose by 12% in 2017, “driven by the perceived threat from Russia felt in many countries”. This meant military spending had risen for four consecutive years, after six years in a row which had seen decreases.
“European states are increasingly conscious that the world is a dangerous place,” said the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in its Military Balance report for 2018. “Our figures indicate that in 2017, Europe was the fastest-growing region when it came to real-terms defence spending,” it added, reporting annual growth of 3.6% last year.
US President Donald Trump has castigated Western allies, notably in Europe, for failing to pay their share of the common security bill.