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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 50, September 2000

Report on Global Arms Expenditure

On August 21, the US State Department's Bureau of Verification and Compliance issued its latest report on World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, summarising developments in 1997. The full report is available at http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/bureauvc.html. A Fact Sheet distributed by the Bureau condensed the main findings:

"Military Expenditures

World military spending rose to $842 billion in 1997, a 2% increase over the previous year. This may represent the beginning of an upturn in the world trend, following a 1995-96 low that had fallen 60% from the 1987 peak level. The spending of the developed countries rose slightly in 1997 to $610 billion after bottoming in the previous year at 54% of the 1987-88 peak. Developing country spending, on the other hand, has been growing since 1993-94 and reached a new historic high of $232 billion in 1997. The developing [country] share of world spending was 28%, rising from 17% a decade earlier.

Regional shares...shifted over the 1987-1997 period, as Eastern Europe's share in particular fell from 35% to 8%... At the same time, there was over a doubling of the shares of East Asia (from 9% to 21%) and South Asia (0.9% to 2%), with growing shares by North America (29% to 34%), Western Europe (16% to 22%), and South America (1.6% to 2.4%). The OECD countries accounted for 62%...up from 48% a decade earlier. The NATO share rose from 44% to 54%. United States spending in 1997 made up 33% of the world total, compared to 27% in 1987 and a high of 36% in 1993. ...

The world's top 10 military spenders in 1997 were (in billions): United States, $276; China - Mainland, $75; Russia, $42; France, $42; Japan, $41; United Kingdom, $35; Germany, $33; Italy, $23; Saudi Arabia, $22; South Korea, $15.

Arms Imports

The world arms trade rose sharply in 1997 to $55 billion, a 23% increase over 1996, following a precipitous drop by nearly one half from the 1987 all-time high of $81.5 billion to $42 billion in 1994... In the three-year 19956-97 period, the main importing regions and their world share (in billions...) [were]: Middle East, $53.1 (38%); East Asia, $35.5 (25%); Western Europe, $25.8 (18%); North America, $5.3 (4%); South America, $4.2 (3%); Oceania, $4 (3%). In this period, the leading arms importing countries were (in billions)...Saudi Arabia ($31.3), China - Taiwan ($12.5), Japan ($6.8), Egypt ($5.3), Kuwait ($5), Turkey ($4.9), United Kingdom ($4.5), South Korea ($4.2), United States ($3.8), United Arab Emirates, ($3.8).

Arms Exports

World arms exports (equal to world arms imports) rose 23% in 1997 to $54.6 billion, or about two-thirds of the all-time high a decade earlier. The increase went mainly to East Asia and the Middle East. The top arms exporting regions in 1997 were North America with 59% of the world total (of which the US had 58%), Western Europe - 30%, Eastern Europe - 7%, and East Asia - 2.5%. ... In 1995-97, the main exporting countries were (in billions)...United States, $77.8 (55%); United Kingdom, $18 (13%); France, $12 (8%); Russia, $9.2 (7%); Germany, $3.8 (3%); Sweden, $3.1 (2%); China - Mainland, $2.4 (2%), Israel, $2 (1%). ...

Other Indicators

The world's military burden, as commonly measured by the ratio of military expenditures to GNP, dropped to 2.6% in 1997 from 5.2% a decade earlier. In 1997, it was nearly the same for developed (2.5%) and developing (2.7%) countries. By region it ranged from 7.6% in the Middle East to 1.5% in Central America and the Caribbean. In another measure of burden, the ratio of military expenditures to central Government expenditures..., the developed countries by 1997 fell to a smaller burden (9.4%) than the developing countries (13.3%). The Middle East burden of 22.7% was again the highest, while Western Europe had the lowest, 5.5%.

The ratio of military expenditures to population...dropped nearly in half, from $271 [per capita] in 1987 to $145 in 1997 for the world. The decline was primarily in developed countries, where it fell from $909 to $525. In developing countries, it fell from $62 to $50."

Reports: Text - new report shows upswing in military spending, arms transfers, US State Department (Washington File), August 21; Fact Sheet - world military expenditures and arms transfers 1997, US State Department (Washington File), August 21.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.