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Top 10 military spending nations; oil countries post biggest jumps this decade

Despite a global recession, worldwide military spending increased in 2009 by its fastest pace since 2003, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Chad boosted spending by 663 percent. The US still has the biggest defense budget.

By Correspondent / June 3, 2010

Marines and sailors line the deck of the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima as it passes the Statue of Liberty in New York on May 26, as part of Fleet Week.

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Worldwide military spending jumped 5.9 percent in 2009 to $1.5 trillion, according to a new report that underscores the long-term decision of many countries to prioritize defense. This is despite a recession that shrunk the global economy 2.2 percent.

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The US remains by far the biggest military spender, followed by China, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its annual report on worldwide military expenditures, released June 2. Last year saw the steepest jump in worldwide military spending since the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

See the full list: IN PICTURES: World's Top 10 Military Spenders

But, as the world’s military spending increased nearly 50 percent over the past decade, the biggest military budget increases were seen in small, oil-rich countries flooded with new wealth.

From 2000 to 2009, Chad increased its military budget 663 percent, Azerbaijan increased 471 percent, and Kazakhstan increased 360 percent.

“It creates potential dangers,” Sam Perlo-Freeman, one of the report’s authors and the head of SIPRI’s military expenditure project, said in a telephone interview from Stokholm Thursday. “Although there is nothing inevitable about arms races leading to war, it can potentially be a warning sign.”

Turning oil into arms

Oil discovery often increases military spending, Mr. Perlo-Freeman says, because – unlike taxes – the revenues carry little political cost, the oil and gas infrastructure justifies increased protection, and the development of natural resources tends to exacerbate tension and conflict.

In Nigeria, for example, SIPRI found that “the massive environmental damage caused by oil extraction and the lack of benefit to oil-producing regions has generated grievances.” Chad, as well, has increased military spending in an attempt to quell domestic conflict. Chad’s oil infrastructure was built up with cheap loans from the World Bank. The global lending agency pulled out of the project when it became clear that the government was spending oil revenues on defense instead of development, says Perlo-Freeman.

In Central Asia, Azerbaijan has used oil revenues to beef up forces along its border with Armenia, which has traditionally had a stronger army and enjoys strategic terrain advantages. The International Crisis Group said in a report last year that Azerbaijan's stronger military could put the fragile truce with Armenia under threat.

“Azerbaijan has been playing catch-up with Armenia,” says Perlo-Freeman, noting their conflict over the disputed Karabakh region.

US and China top spenders

In absolute terms, the US and China increased military spending the most over the past decade.

China, which regards its military budget as a state secret, spent an estimated $100 billion on it in 2009, a 217 percent increase from 2000, according to SIPRI. The only other Asian country in the top 15 was India, which spent $36.3 billion on its military in 2009.

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