U.S. defense spending dropped to 38 percent of the global total in 2014, compared to its 47 percent share in 2010, according to an assessment of global military capabilities published Wednesday in Britain. Analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies says the shift comes as military spending in the Middle East and Asia rises dramatically.
In the Middle East and North Africa, nominal defense spending is estimated to have risen by almost two-thirds since 2010; In Asia, by more than one-quarter.
Analyst Ben Barry is Senior Fellow for Land Warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“In the Middle East it is partly a result of the Arab Spring, and partly also a result of the strategic tensions there, for example between the Gulf States and Iran. And in Asia, you have increasingly prosperous countries deciding to invest some of that prosperity in modernizing their armed forces," said Barry.
The report says the United States and, to a limited extent, some other Western countries still possess dominant military capabilities. But it says the West is at risk of losing its military-technological edge.
In Europe, real defense spending in 2014, cumulatively, was more than seven percent lower than in 2010.
“Just as geo-economic power is shifting eastwards, away from Europe towards the Middle East and the Asia Pacific, so military power is as well. And particularly the rise of China, whose defense budget has been increasing significantly and who is increasingly producing more modern and more capable armored vehicles, ships, and air crafts," said Barry.
IISS Director John Chipman introduced the report in London. He said one of the key military concerns of 2014 was the re-emergence of conflict in Europe.
The events in the Ukraine, he said, eroded “virtually all trust” between Western powers and Russia.
“Throughout this crisis Russia has shown its determination to use force and support the use of force by others in the Ukraine. Overall, Europe is facing a more belligerent Russia that appears intent on testing the resolve of the West," said Chipman.
According to Wednesday’s report, Russia’s defense spending increases have averaged 10 percent in the three years to 2014.
It says Russia has used a broad range of traditional and non-traditional politico-military methods in Ukraine, which have given NATO members a “pause for thought”.
“What we have seen is effectively a state-sponsored insurgency, where we have seen propaganda, disinformation, and a cyborg dimension to the conflict. What is new is the speed at which it can happen and the Cyber dimension, particularly the way propaganda and messaging can be rapidly propagated through social media," he said.
The report says Russia may struggle to maintain its increased military spending because of the deterioration in Russia’s economy, related to a number of causes including falling oil prices and economic sanctions.