STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s military spending grew 17 percent in 2014 to $80.8 billion, data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed on Monday, the biggest annual hike by any of the world’s top 15 military spenders.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia launched air strikes last month on Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, leading a regional coalition against Shi’ite fighters it says are backed by rival Gulf power Iran.
“While total world military spending is mostly unchanged, some regions, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, are continuing to see rapid build-ups that are placing an increasingly high burden on many economies,” said Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure project.
“These increases partly reflect worsening security situations, but in many cases they are also the product of corruption, vested interests and autocratic governance.”
At $1.8 trillion, global military spending fell by 0.4 percent last year, down for the third consecutive year, SIPRI said. U.S. and Western European cuts were mostly countered by hikes in Asia and Oceania, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. Spending in Latin America was roughly flat.
The Ukraine conflict made many countries close to Russia hike defense budgets, SIPRI said, reversing a previous trend for falling spending.
Ukraine increased spending by 20 percent last year and plans to more than double its military budget in 2015, SIPRI said.
Reporting by Sven Nordenstam; Editing by Robin Pomeroy