* Gulf, Asia powers ramp up military expenditures
* US, Europe continue defence cuts
* China could top US spending by mid-2030s
By Peter Apps
LONDON, Feb 5 Saudi Arabia beat Britain to
become the world's fourth largest defence spender in 2013, a
report said on Wednesday, as Western cuts and Asian and Middle
Eastern growth shift the global balance of military power.
London's International Institute for Strategic Studies said
the United States remains by far the world's pre-eminent
military power, spending some $600 billion Last year, some 38
percent of the global total.
Overall global defence spending probably fell marginally in
2013, it said, but increased dramatically in Asia and the Middle
East. China's military expenditure had increased by some 40
percent since 2010, raising it to an estimated $112 billion.
That in itself is helping spark a wider Asian arms race, the
report said, with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and others also
ramping up spending.
Despite a U.S. "pivot" to reallocate military forces to
Asia, analysts say some countries - particularly Japan, locked
in growing confrontation with Beijing over disputed maritime
boundaries - worry that Washington might fail to back them in
any conflict. Overall, Asian military spending in 2013 was 11.6
percent higher than in 2010, it said.
In the Middle East, Gulf Arab state worries over Iran - as
well as domestic discontent in the aftermath of the "Arab
Spring" - has prompted Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members to
significantly raise their spending.
"The West still spent over half of global defence outlays in
2013 (but) this is down from two thirds... in 2010," IISS
Director-General John Chipman told a press briefing. "Emerging
economies continue to ramp up their defence spending levels."
Russia increased its defence spending to some $68.2 billion,
up 30 percent from 2010 and now accounting for roughly a quarter
of all European defence expenditure.
The report estimated Saudi Arabia was spending $59.6 billion
- a figure researchers said was extremely conservative - pushing
it above Britain at $57 billion or France at $52.4 billion.
Saudi spending increased 8.6 percent in the 2012-13 period, it
Nevertheless, one of the central reasons for Saudi Arabia
outpacing Britain was a shift in exchange rates, researchers
said, meaning this could be reversed in 2014.
Of the top global spenders by percentage of gross domestic
product, the vast majority were in the Middle East - Oman, Saudi
Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Jordan.
If Chinese military spending continues to increase at the
current pace, IISS researchers estimate it may overtake that of
the United States sometime in the 2030s. But it would likely
take longer to match Washington's overall military capabilities,
the IISS said.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich; telephone +44 7990 560586)