Navigating the New Cold War: SIPRI's Warning Signals a Major Global Arms Race

The Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) warns that an uncontrolled massive arms buildup is underway around the world

by Sededin Dedovic
Navigating the New Cold War: SIPRI's Warning Signals a Major Global Arms Race
© Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

The rise in global military spending in 2023 has sparked widespread concern and debate about its implications for international security and stability. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), total global military spending has reached a whopping $2.4 trillion, an increase of nearly seven percent over the previous year.

This upward trend, particularly evident in regions such as Europe, Asia and the Middle East, reflects the growing geopolitical tensions and security challenges facing nations around the world. Leading global powers such as the United States, China and Russia have significantly increased their military budgets, emphasizing their strategic priorities amid new security threats.

However, perhaps the most striking development was the unprecedented 105 percent increase in military spending recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, underscoring the persistent conflicts plaguing the region.

Democratic Republic of Congos President Felix Tshisekedi and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony at the Gre© Pool / Getty Images

Xiao Liang, research associate at SIPRI, highlights the worrying proliferation of military spending across Latin America and Africa.

"What surprised us was how much the increase was in the rest of the world, especially in Latin America and Africa. In Mexico and El Salvador, for example, governments used the military to solve internal problems, that is, to fight organized crime and violent gangs.

Similar worrying trends exist in Ecuador and Brazil," Liang said. If the current conflicts and tensions do not decrease, experts warn that the global trend of escalating military expenditures will probably continue in the years ahead, reports Deutsche Welle.

"The increase, therefore, in itself is not an excessive surprise, but its scale and scope are. And as far as the global trend is concerned, even if the current conflicts and tensions continue, we will probably witness a further increase in the coming years," Xiao Liyang told DeutscheWelle.

Amid geopolitical tensions, Russia has shifted to a war economy, significantly increasing its military spending following the conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukraine is facing enormous pressure, with military spending reaching unprecedented levels as it faces Russian aggression, albeit with Western support.

In this handout image supplied by Host photo agency / RIA Novosti, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, Russian Defense Min© Handout / Getty Images

NATO allies have also increased their defense spending, with many exceeding the target of two percent of GDP.

"All NATO members, except for three of them, increased their spending. In addition, eleven of the 31 members of the Alliance reached or even exceeded the goal of spending two percent of GDP on defense. This is the highest since the end of the Cold War.

We estimate that, even with the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, even more countries will achieve this goal and that the total consumption of NATO countries will continue to grow," says the SIPRI researcher. Then in Asia, the strengthening of China's military over the past three decades, paralleled by its economic growth, has prompted neighboring countries such as Japan, Taiwan and India to improve their defense capabilities in response.

It's just that everything happens in a chain. Last year, China spent another six percent more than a year earlier. Beijing has invested 296 billion dollars in the military, which is half of the expenditure for this purpose in the entire region of Asia and Oceania.

In response, both Japan and Taiwan, which historically have strained relations with China, each increased their spending by 11 percent. "China's consumption has grown continuously for 29 consecutive years, the longest streak of any country.

This happens mainly in parallel with the economic growth of that country, and regardless of geopolitical tensions or global crises such as the war in Ukraine or the covid pandemic. At the same time, China's military modernization is causing countries like Japan, Taiwan and India to also increase their spending," says Xiao Liang.

Challenges and implications

Escalating military spending presents multiple challenges, including regional destabilization, the dynamics of an arms race, and the erosion of diplomatic efforts. Tensions between China and Taiwan exemplify the risks associated with unchecked militarization, necessitating diplomatic dialogue to mitigate the potential for conflict escalation.

Niklas Schernig, a political scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Peace and Conflict Research in Frankfurt, tells DW: "We live in a time when military security has again become a priority, when security is once again thought of in military terms.

In that respect, these numbers are simply an expression of that mindset. With the current drones that Iran, for example, is supplying to Russia, and that Iran is now using, the defense effort has become enormously expensive.

That the states arm themselves again, at least in a controlled manner. That there is an agreement: we do not arm ourselves above a certain level. In that case, that dynamic would be somewhat slowed down. Arms control could certainly be some kind of intermediate goal - that is, to control and stabilize armaments," said this influential political scientist.