The countries with four of the five fastest-growing defense budgets are in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia leading, ranked 9th in the world, according to a new report by the London intelligence and defense consultancy IHS Janes.
“We have seen substantial increases in defense spending from countries like Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Oman over the past two years,” said Paul Burton, director of IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defense & Security.
“With military budgets among many of the major NATO nations due to continue to contract over the next 12 months, the center of gravity of defense expenditure is expected to continue to shift south and east in 2014, following the trend of global economic expansion,” he said, pointing out that “Russia, Asia, and the Middle East will provide the impetus behind the growth in global military spending expected this year.”
Rounding out the top-ten according to HIS Jane’s 2013 Defense Budget Ranking, in descending order, are: US, China, Russia, Britain, Japan, France, India, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
Israel comes in at 19, just behind Colombia and before Algeria.
Saudi Arabia, which fears Iran’s growing regional clout and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, has tripled its budget in 10 years.
Another interesting statistic, which shows the shift in military spending, is that by 2015, Russia and China together will spend more than the entire EU.
Fenella McGerty, a senior analyst with IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defence & Security, said that China alone is predicted to overtake Britain, France, and Germany combined by 2015.
“We have seen a rapid acceleration of defense spending in the Middle East since 2011,” McGerty said. “Four of the top five fastest growing defense markets in 2013 were Middle Eastern countries. If we stretch to look at the top 10 fastest growing markets, six of the 10 were in the Middle East. Oman and Saudi Arabia, in particular, have seen rapid growth of over 30% between 2011 and 2013.”
McGerty said that the Saudis total spending has now reached $67 billion.
Reflecting Russia’s increased international role, its defense spending “is set to increase over 44 percent in real terms over the next three years,” said Craig Caffrey, a senior analyst at IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defense & Security.
Prof. Efraim Karsh, a scholar of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King’s College, who recently joined the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post that Russia has been a Middle Eastern power ever since its imperial pre-Soviet days and its primary concern is securing the region on its southern border.
“The Middle East and its southern border is like Mexico for America,” he said.
People think that Russian President Vladimir Putin is just being aggressive for his own sake, he said, but people need to understand that Russia’s southern border is a national security interest.
Karsh considers that America is retreating, due to the impact of US President Barack Obama.
Asked if he was surprised by Israel ranking 19th in the world, he responded that you often hear people attacking the IDF for overspending; but according to this data, it is spending less than other countries.