Stockholm: World military spending failed to rise last year for the first time since 1998 in what could herald a major trend break, but the global nuclear threat remains strong, think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said on Monday.
As the global economic crisis cuts into defence spending, conflicts around the world are also becoming smaller, shorter and less deadly, and the number of wars between states are at historically low levels, Sipri said.
The Arab Spring also demonstrated that new types of conflicts are emerging, it added.
World military expenditure in 2011 was essentially flat at $1.73 trillion (Rs 96 trillion)—an increase of just 0.3% from 2010— representing 2.5% of global gross domestic product, or $249 per person, Sipri said in a report. “However, it is still too early to say whether this means that world military expenditure has finally peaked,” the think tank wrote.
Nuclear arsenals declined last year, the report said, as the US and Russia further reduced their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons.
At the start of 2012, eight countries—Britain, China, India, Israel, France, Pakistan, Russia and the US— held some 19,000 nuclear warheads, compared to 20,530 at the start of 2011, it said.
However, long-term modernization programmes under way in nuclear states “suggest that nuclear weapons are still a currency of international status and power”, Sipri researcher Shannon Kile said. “In spite of the world’s revived interest in disarmament efforts, none of the nuclear weapon-possessing states show more than a rhetorical willingness to give up their nuclear arsenals just yet.”
The report noted that Iran and Syria came under intensified scrutiny in 2011 for allegedly concealing military nuclear activities. “The unresolved Iranian and Syrian nuclear controversies raised further doubt about the efficacy of international legal approaches, in particular the role of the UN (United Nations) Security Council, in dealing with suspected or known cases of states violating important arms control treaty obligations and norms.”
In Iran, “the main question now is whether the current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states (UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany) will yield concrete results,” Kile said. “The prospects for reaching a negotiated settlement remain unclear, with both sides engaged in political gamesmanship.”