Saudi Arabia boosts military spending to record level

saudi arabia army
Saudi Arabia increased its military spending by 17% in 2014.

Saudi Arabia is spending more than ever on defense after boosting its military budget by 17% in 2014, a new report shows.

That was the biggest increase among the world's top defense spenders, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The dramatic increase reflects the volatile security situation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign against Shiite rebels in neighboring Yemen in recent weeks.

With high oil prices filling its coffers, Saudi Arabia spent $80.8 billion on its military last year -- the fourth highest total in the world. That represents more than 10% of Saudi GDP -- a bigger share than any country other than Oman.

Global military spending was mostly flat last year, but the Middle East and much of Africa saw strong increases, said Sam Perlo-Freeman, the head of military expenditure research at the Stockholm institute.

The United States cut military spending by 6.5% in 2014 as part of a plan to reduce the budget deficit. Military spending in the U.S. has fallen by 20% since its peak in 2010, but remains 45% higher than before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The U.S. is still the world's biggest spender by far. Its 2014 bill totaled $610 billion, nearly three times China's budget of $216 billion. That was up 9.7% from a year earlier.

Related: Russia is buying weapons - a lot of them

Russia is third on the list after the U.S. and China. It spent $84.5 billion in 2014, an increase of 8.1% in just a year.

Russia was planning for the increase even before the start of the crisis in Ukraine. Its long term military modernization plan aims to provide 70% of the armed forces with new equipment by 2020.

Moscow is aiming for further growth of 15% in 2015. The original plan was for an even bigger increase, but the government was forced to cut back after the collapse in oil prices late last year pushed the country intro recession.

The conflict in Ukraine is forcing other European countries to boost their military budgets.

Spending in eastern Europe was up 8.4% in 2014, reaching $93.9 billion. Poland and Ukraine recorded the biggest increases. The institute said military spending in eastern European has increased by 98% since 2005.

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