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Revealed: Global military spending reaches nearly $2 trillion despite Covid

UK soldiers in training

Revealed: Global military spending reaches nearly $2 trillion despite Covid

The Peace Pledge Union has said that it is shameful that global military spending continued to rise in 2020 despite the need to tackle Covid.

The world's military spending rose by 2.6% to reach $1,981,000,000,000 in 2020, while both poor and rich countries struggled to provide people with the resources needed to address the Covid 19 pandemic.

Despite struggling with inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment during the early stages of the Covid crisis, the British government's military spending rose by 2.9% during 2020.

The figures were released today following extensive research and calculations by academic researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Other recent analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies projects that Britain’s military spending in 2021 will be higher than Russia’s.

Boris Johnson recently announced the largest percentage increase in UK military spending since the Korean War nearly 70 years ago. This amounts to £24bn over four years in addition to existing military budgets.

The UK's official core military budget in 2020-21 was £41.2bn, although the amounts the UK reported to NATO are higher still.

In response, 36 organisations – including the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Scientists for Global Responsibility, CND and the Fellowship of Reconciliation – have today called on Johnson's government to rethink their spending decisions in light of the Covid pandemic and the climate emergency.

These are totally misplaced priorities”, said Matt Fawcett, UK Co-ordinator of the Global Campaign on Military Spending. “The pandemic and the climate crisis have shown us in dramatic ways that the areas we need to invest in are not high-tech military gadgetry."

He added, “The UK should work to establish greater international co-operation over health, environment and common security. Otherwise, all sides will continue up the military spiral, with grave risks of devastating confrontations.”

The big rise in military spending has been contrasted to the government's decision to cut the overseas aid budget by nearly a third, and the derisory offer of a 1% pay increase to nurses in England.

While the government itself say that climate change is their “number one international priority”, this is not reflected in recent spending decisions.

The 36 organisations challenging the government's spending priorities today have pointed out that Boris Johnson's “ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution" has a budget of only £11bn earmarked for spending in the next four years. Averaging just £2.8bn per year, this represents less than half the additional military allocation and is far less than the amounts advised by the Committee on Climate Change.

Boris Johnson says he wants to make the UK a ‘science and technology superpower’ but his main plan for achieving this is to greatly expand the use of robots, artificial intelligence, and lasers in military confrontations,” explained Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility.

He added, “Coupled with an expansion of nuclear weapons, this is an extraordinarily dangerous path. Yet the Covid 19 pandemic and the climate crisis show where scientific and engineering effort is really needed – to help tackle the considerable health, social and environmental problems that the UK and the world face.

Today's statement by 36 groups in the UK forms part of the Global Days of Action on Military Spending, in which British campaign groups are taking an active part. Other actions planned include a conference on Threats of War, a Peace Hustings for the Scottish elections and a protest outside the US spy-base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire.

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