Russian military spending fell by a fifth last year, its first decline in nearly two decades, a report by defence think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has showed.
Russia has flexed its military muscles during the last few years with its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and deep involvement in the Syrian conflict serving as examples of its more belligerent stance.
But while global military spending rose one per cent to $1,739 billion last year, Russia’s fell 20 per cent in real terms to $66.3 billion, the report from the SIPRI showed on Wednesday.
It was the first fall since 1998, a year of a major crisis when Russia’s economy collapsed and it defaulted on domestic debt.
The following year Vladimir Putin took power as prime minister and, on New Year’s Eve, president, reports Reuters.
Based on the government’s spending plan until 2020, defence costs are expected to stay flat from 2017 or possibly even fall somewhat adjusted for inflation, a SIPRI researcher said.
“Very clearly that has a direct impact on procurement and on operations. Those are the quickest things to cut,” the researcher added.
Russia dropped to fourth place in the ranking of the world’s biggest military spenders, overtaken by Saudi Arabia.
President Vladimir Putin has called for higher living standards and higher spending on social infrastructure, such as healthcare and education.
Some government officials have called for lower military spending to free up funds for such initiatives.
The United States remains the world’s biggest military spender by far, accounting for 35 per cent of global expenditures, more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined.
China’s spending as a share of world military expenditure rose to 13 per cent last year from 5.8 per cent in 2008.
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