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Swedish think tank puts Russia in world’s top three biggest defense spenders

The US topped the chart with 2016 military spending estimated at $611 billion, nearly three times the level of China with $215 billion

STOCKHOLM, April 24. /TASS/. With military expenditures of $69.2 billion, Russia ranks third in the list of the world’s biggest defense spenders in 2016, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its survey published Monday.

The top 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2016 were the same as those in 2015, although some changes have been made in their ranking. The United States topped the chart with last year’s military expenditures estimated at $611 billion (up 1.7 percentage points year-on-year), which is nearly three times the level of China with $215 billion (up 5.4 percentage points year-on-year). In 2016, total US military expenditure of $611 billion is over one third (36%) of world's total military expenditure.

Russia is third with $69.2 billion (up 5.9 percentage points year-on-year). Saudi Arabia slashed its military financing by impressive 30% and was down to the fourth place in 2016, with a defense budget of $63.7 billion.

"As a result of an unexpected increase in Russia’s military expenditure in late 2016 and large cuts to Saudi Arabia’s military budget, Russia moved above Saudi Arabia to the position of third largest spender in 2016," SIPRI said.

Russia’s military spending in 2016 was 5.3% of its GDP-the highest proportion since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the seventh highest military burden globally.

According to the report, "this increased spending and heavy burden on the economy comes at a time when the Russian economy is in serious trouble due to low oil and gas prices and the economic sanctions imposed since 2014."

"It was originally expected and planned that the Russian Government would reduce its spending, including military spending," the report reads. "However, late in 2016 actual spending was pushed substantially higher by a decision to make a one-off payment of roughly $11.8 billion in government debt to Russian arms producers. Without this debt repayment, Russia’s military spending would have decreased by 12%"

US military spending grew by 1.7% between 2015 and 2016, the first increase after five consecutive years of decline. Despite this slight growth, US military expenditures remain 20% lower than their peak in 2010.

The small upturn in 2016 can be attributed to legislation adopted in 2013 and 2015, which eased the budget limits imposed in 2011.

However, given the context of the presidential election and the inability of the US Congress and the White House to reach agreement on a budget to be implemented on 1 October 2016, there is uncertainty about short-term developments in the country’s military expenditure.