Defence
International 26/04/2021

Spain increases its military spending by 9.4% in the year of the pandemic

The pandemic does not slow global military spending, which rises to two trillion dollars, 2.6% more than in 2019

3 min
An MG3 type weapon of the German armed forces is ready to be packed in containers with other weapons destined for northern Iraq at a military base in Waren

BarcelonaSpain has increased its military spending by 9.41% during the year of the pandemic, from €20.1bn to €21.6bn, which is equivalent to €55m per day. According to calculations by the Centre Delàs d'Estudis per la Pau accounts for more than 3.93% of the state budget and 1.8% of GDP. The investment in military research and development planned for 2021 is €861m and is more than the amount spent on health research and development, which is €287m. The Spanish government has also increased spending on arms purchases, while according to the Spanish Development NGOs Coordinator "Spain is one of the countries which in 2020 reduced its spending on cooperation, which will be allocated €3.1bn next year".

The pandemic has not made governments rethink their military spending: on the contrary, in 2020 in the world were spent $1.98tn (€1.65bn), 2.6% more than the previous year, which had already recorded the highest figure since the end of the Cold War, according to the report published on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) . This growth of 2.6% in global military spending contrasts with the fall in gross domestic product (GDP) of 4.4% caused by the covid-19 pandemic. As a result, in 2020 military spending reached an average of 2.4% of global spending.

"We can say that the pandemic did not have a significant impact on global military spending in 2020," says Diego Lopes da Silva, a researcher in SIPRI's Arms and Military Expenditure Programme and one of the authors of the report. "It remains to be seen whether countries will maintain this level of military spending during the second year of the pandemic," he adds.

The US and China, the highest spenders

The world's biggest military spender is the United States, which accounts for 39% of global spending. The drift of the Trump administration and the growing concern about the rearmament of China and Russia have increased Washington spending. In 2020 it reached $778bn, a year-on-year increase of 4.4%. It was the third consecutive year of growth in US military spending, after seven years of continuous reductions. The increase is explained by "strong investment in research and development, and some long-term projects such as the modernisation of its nuclear arsenal and the acquisition of large-scale weapons," notes Alexandra Marksteiner of SIPRI. The Biden administration has shown no signs that it is willing to lower the cost of maintaining its position as the world's leading military power. Jordi Calbó, of the Centre Delàs d'Estudis per la Pau, denounces that "the global trend towards an extreme militarisation of international relations is a reality that seems to have no end".

In second place is China, which has long been accelerating to catch up with the great military powers, with an expenditure that last year reached $252bn, 1.9% more than the previous year and 76% more than in the decade 2011-20.

After the United States and China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom are the countries with the highest military spending: the five together account for 62% of the world total.

As for NATO countries, the recession has also caused military spending to rise above the 2% of GDP spending required by the Alliance in 12 countries: in the case of France, for example, this barrier has been surpassed for the first time since 2009.

Chile and South Korea, the exceptions

Some countries are the exception to the rule and have decided to lower their military spending to deal with the response to the pandemic: this is the case of Chile and South Korea. "Other countries, such as Brazil or Russia, have not explicitly acknowledged this, but have spent considerably less than what they had budgeted for in 2020," adds Lopes da Silva. On the contrary, Viktor Orbán's government in Hungary has increased its military spending as part of its stimulus plan in response to the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic.

More than 140 civil society organisations from 30 different countries have issued a public call to governments around the world to reduce their military spending to address the health and eco-social crisis. They warn that with a 10% reduction in global military spending could finance universal education (Sustainable Development Goal 4) and a 9% reduction could finance the adaptation to climate change proposed by the Global Commission on Adaptation in ten years; with only 26 hours without spending money on weapons 34 million people could be saved from starvation, or with the military spending of EU member states during the last 4 years the European Green New Deal could be financed.

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