x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Saudi Arabia becomes world’s fourth biggest military spender

Riyadh increases its military expenditure by 14 per cent to US$67 billion (Dh246bn) in 2013.

ABU DHABI // Saudi Arabia was the fourth largest military spender in the world last year, a reflection of Riyadh’s desire to protect itself in a changing region.

According to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Riyadh increased its military expenditure by 14 per cent to US$67 billion (Dh246bn) in 2013.

In 2012, Riyadh ranked seventh in the yearly study. The country now joins the United States, China, Russia, and France as the world’s top five military spenders.

Across the Middle East, military expenditure reached an estimated $150bn, a four per cent increase over 2012.

Although this figure is likely to be higher because there was no available data for the UAE, Iran, Qatar, Syria and Yemen.

The largest individual increases in military spending in the Middle East were Iraq (27 per cent) and Bahrain, (26 per cent).

Mustafa Alani, the director of security and defence studies at the Geneva-based Gulf Research Centre, said there were a number of reasons as to why Riyadh is upgrading its weaponry.

Its current military hardware is about 20 years old and the regional threats are increasing, he said.

“There is an unstable Iraq in the north, an unstable Yemen in the south and Iranian hegemony and intimidation.” Mr Alani said.

One indication of how seriously Riyadh views the threat from Iran is its investment in missile defence capabilities.

While the US has traditionally protected Arabian Gulf states, and the world’s most vital oil shipping lanes, from Iran, Washington’s so-called “pivot” in foreign policy to Asia has the region concerned.

But Aaron Stein, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, said the US was actually “scaling back to pre-September 11” levels of regional deployment.

“It’s more a rebalancing than a pivot,” Mr Stein said.

Overall, global military spending fell in 2013 by 1.9 per cent to $1.747 trillion.

jvela@thenational.ae