Figures published on Tuesday by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) show that global defence spending has skyrocketed over the past 12 months.
An analysis by the think tank said spending on everything military from ammunition to nuclear weapons has risen by nine percent since February 2023, reaching a massive £1.7 trillion ($2.2trn).
Russia and China have been among the major drivers of this hike. As Vladimir Putin‘s nation is about to enter the third year of its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin is transitioning back into a war economy and allocated more than 30 percent of its budget to the armed forces, the IISS wrote.
On the other hand, increased attention on China‘s military comes against a backdrop of major tensions with the West, clashes in the South China Sea and constant threats of invasion against Taiwan.
Russia and China are also among the nations that are spending on more technologically advanced weapons such as hypersonic missiles and unmanned drones.
Iran, the analysis showed, is exercising an expanding influence, as shown by its readiness to supply weapons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, one of its proxy groups, and the sale of drones to Russia to be deployed against Ukrainian targets.
Nations are also investing in nuclear weapons, the IISS noted as its analysis read: “Nuclear weapons are also very much back on the agenda, with China adding missile silos and the United States modernising warheads and delivery systems.”
In the Western world, NATO allies have been spending more on defence over the past decade, since Putin invaded and illegally annexed Crimea.
Nevertheless, these investments in Europe and the US are not yet enough to make up for years of defence cuts following the end of the Cold War, the think tank noted.
This comes amid warnings raised in the UK in recent weeks about the country’s defence supplies and how important it is for Britain to buy a new arsenal to be ready for the worst-case scenario – a war with Russia.
In its stark report, the IISS claimed the world has “entered a more dangerous period in the last 12 months”.
Given the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the rising tensions across the whole of the Middle East and Far East and “already announced spending commitments”, the IISS believes the nine percent spending noted over the past year is only poised to grow further in 2024.
Bastian Giegerich, director-general and chief executive of the IISS, noted the “important time” during which the analysis has been published, as “the rules-based order is being increasingly questioned”.
He added: “While Western defence spending is rising and plans to revamp equipment are ongoing, we reflect on the challenges including those set by Russia‘s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, China’s military modernisation and events in the Middle East.”