Study: Militarisation on the rise to counter Russia

Europe, particularly its Eastern and Baltic countries, has reacted to Russia's Crimea annexation. Finland ranked 22nd in the index this year. [Jne Valokuvaus/ Shutterstock]

Militarisation has increased in Europe and five of the continent’s countries are in the top 10 of a new index that compares defence spending with social factors. EURACTIV Germany reports.

According to the new 2016 Global Militarisation Index (GMI) produced by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine have led to increased militarisation, especially in Eastern Europe.

The GMI analyses 152 countries and aims to compare the relative strengths of national militaries with social factors. For example, military spending is compared with GDP and public spending on health.

Ukraine itself made significant upgrades to its military capabilities; Europe’s largest country climbed the index from its 2015 place of 23rd to 15th in 2016. Other European countries to make it into the top 10 are Armenia, Russia, Cyprus, Greece and Azerbaijan.

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The EU’s eastern member states of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as the Baltic nations, all increased military spending, while their GDPs decreased. Finland and Estonia, Russia’s nearest EU neighbours, ranked 22nd and 25th, respectively. Lithuania rose from 60th to 44th in the space of a year.

The author of the index, Max M. Mutschler, also highlighted the Eastern European countries’ elevated ranking in the index.

Russia made it into 5th spot and thus protects its run of being in the top 10 most militarised countries in the world.

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However, Western Europe showed a relative degree of stability and little militarisation was seen in 2016.

Germany was ranked only 100th, however, that is likely to change soon, as Berlin has announced that it wants to increase military spending by 6.2% between 2015 and 2019.

US President-elect Donald Trump is also likely to put pressure on NATO’s European members to invest more in their militaries, in order to achieve defence spending targets of 2% of GDP.

Europe has already reacted, as a report discussed in the European Parliament clearly shows.

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The United States spends more money on its military than any other country on the planet; in 2015, spending topped $595 billion, but it still only ranks 31st on the index.

“Its high level of spending and number of military personnel is only relative to GDP and population in the ranking,” explained Mutschler. This explains why smaller countries like Singapore, Cypus and Armenia rank so highly in the GMI.

Due to its reliance on a conscription model, Israel tops the index, as its number of military personnel is above average when compared with its population. The country’s budget is also largely influenced by the instability of the Middle East and ongoing conflicts.

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The BICC researchers were also interested to see whether or not the sharp fall in oil price since 2014 would affect the Gulf States’ militarisation. So far, a reduction in military spending has not been seen.

“This is particularly true of Saudi Arabia (ranked 17th). The share of defence spending in the kingdom is 13.7% of GDP and that in itself is extremely high for even the Middle East,” Mutschler explained.

This year, the GMI has been compared with Welthungerhilfe’s World Hunger Index, clearly showing that hunger is not just linked to economic or climatic reasons; it goes hand in hand with conflict and instability.

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