STOCKHOLM, Sweden, April 5 (UPI) -- Global military expenditure rose to nearly $1.7 trillion in 2015, reflecting continued growth in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states, according to a SIPRI report.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said the figure was 1 percent higher than 2014 in real terms.
"The increase reflects continuing growth in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states," it said. "The decline in spending in the West is also levelling off. At the same time, spending decreased in Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, the global military expenditure picture is mixed. "
Expenditures by the United States fell by 2.4 per cent to $596 billion but it still remains the world's largest military spender. China's expenditure rose by 7.4 percent to $215 billion, Saudi Arabia spent $87.2 billion, a 5.7 percent increase, while Russia's spending rose 7.5 percent to $66.4 billion.
The report said the crash in oil prices that started in 2014 has contributed to a cut in defense spending in some counties dependent on oil revenues. Among them: Venezuela, down 64 percent, and Angola, which recorded a 42 percent ddrop in military spending.
Military spending in North America and Western and Central Europe has been decreasing since 2009 because of budget constraints but signs in 2015 indicated a possible end to the decline, SIPRI said. Spending in countries close to Russia and Ukraine -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia -- increased spending amid anxiety over possible Russian aggression.
Western European expenditure was down 1.3 percent, the lowest rate of annual decline since 2010. Britain, France and Germany, however, plan modest raises in defense spending because of concerns about Russia and the threat posed by the Islamic State terrorism.
"Military spending in 2015 presents contrasting trends," said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI's military expenditure project. "On the one hand, spending trends reflect the escalating conflict and tension in many parts of the world; on the other hand, they show a clear break from the oil-fueled surge in military spending of the past decade. This volatile economic and political situation creates an uncertain picture for the years to come."