Last year's global military expenditure amounted to 2.5 per cent of the global GDP, or $202 for each of the world's 6.6 billion people, the report said.

 

Leading the big spenders is the US which spent $547bn last year, more than any other year since World War II.

 

Following the US, but lagging well behind, are the UK, China, France and Japan who each account for four to five per cent of world military spending.

 

The Sipri report said military spending was increasing due to foreign policies, real or perceived threats, armed conflict and peacekeeping operations combined with available economic resources.

 

Regional spending

 

Russia made up the bulk of Eastern European
arms expenditure [GALLO/GETTY]
Regionally Eastern Europe saw the biggest growth in military spending mainly because Russia's spending grew 86 per cent, or $35.4bn.

 

North America's military spending swelled 65 per cent, pulled mainly by US costs which grew 59 per cent since the September 11 attacks.

 

The Middle East has also boosted military expenditures by 62 per cent, South Asia by 57 per cent and Africa and East Asia by 51 per cent each in the past decade.

 

Western Europe was the region with the least military spending growth at six per cent, followed by Central America at 14 per cent.

 

The Sipri report said China's burden of military spending which increased "threefold in real terms" was still moderate because of its rapid economic growth.

 

The report said the higher spending on military hardware has increased sales for the world's top 100 weapons manufacturers, excluding those in China.

 

They raked in over $315bn in 2006, a nine per cent jump from the previous year.

 

Sixty-three of them based in the US and Western Europe alone account for $292.3bn of sales in 2006, the report said.

 

The Sipri report said although global weapons spending was up six per cent last year from 2006, there were hopes for increased arms control because of "a broadening consensus … that more serious and effective arms control and disarmament measures" were needed.

 

New administration

 

Top five military spenders in 2007

 

$bn

   Global %

US

547

45

Britain

59.7

5

China

58.3

5

France  

53.6

4

Japan

43.6

4


Source: Sipri, Sweden

The report's authors said that a new US administration coming into office next year could open the way to better global arms control irrespective of who wins the presidency.

 

As the world's biggest arms spender, they said, the US holds the key to new agreements.

 

Bates Gill, director of Sipri, said the US presidential candidates have expressed their intention to reduce the country's nuclear arsenal and promised to consider sending the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for Senate ratification.

 

The 1996 pact cannot come into force until all 44 signatories have ratified it. Eight countries including the US and China have yet to do so.

 

Gill also said that the renewal of several arms treaties and additional pressure on nuclear states to disarm could be among the new controls.

 

The report also proposed that the UN nuclear watchdog be given greater investigative and enforcement powers to ensure nuclear nations comply with non-proliferation obligations.

 

The world's eight nuclear powers had more than 25,000 nuclear warheads combined at the beginning of 2008, the report added.