Thursday, 03 December 2020

Global Militarisation Index 2020 \ Worldwide trends in militarisation and what they may mean for trends in health security

The trends in militarisation in the Middle East, Europe, but also between the United States and China continue. Every year, the Global Militarisation Index (GMI) by the Bonn Peace and Conflict Research institute presents the relative weight and importance of a country’s military apparatus in relation to its society as a whole. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s focus is the link between militarisation and health security.

In this year’s GMI ranking, the ten countries that provided the military with particularly large amounts of resources in relation to other areas of society are Israel, Armenia, Oman, Bahrain, Singapore, Saudi-Arabia, Brunei, Russia, Kuwait and Jordan. One look at the Top 10 shows that all countries in the Middle East are highly militarised by global comparison—six countries are from this region.

The authors, Dr Max Mutschler and Marius Bales, place the regional focus of the GMI 2020 on Europe. The still smouldering conflict between Armenia (ranked 2nd) and Azerbaijan (ranked 16th) over the Nagorno-Karabakh region continues to keep militarisation in the South Caucasus at a very high level. The European NATO countries, especially Baltic and eastern European countries, are again continuing to arm themselves, pointing to ongoing tensions with Russia. In France (position 66; 2014: position 71), too, militarisation has risen since 2014. One reason for this is the declared goal of European strategic autonomy for which France sees itself as a key player. Germany (position 106), where militarisation has remained at a comparatively constant level for years due to its strong economy, invested US $51.2 billion in its military in 2019. “With this, the Federal Republic spent ten per cent more than in the previous year, which represents the largest increase of all EU-countries”, the authors explain.

Competition between China and the United States over the Pacific region

In the Asia–Pacific region, the strategic rivalry between China (position 98) and the United States (position 27) for regional influence intensifies the mutual threat perceptions and contributes to an arms build-up in the region. In 2019, China invested US $266.4 billion and is thus on position two worldwide. It also has the largest armed forces in the world and has been consistently modernising its major conventional weapons systems since 2015. However, it is only on position 98 in the GMI as its military spending represents a mere 1.9 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). With position 27, the United States continues to spend more money than any other country (2019: US $718.7 billion) and is one of the 30 most militarised countries in the world.  “During Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States has become more militarised—it has spent more money on the military, increased its military personnel and the number of major conventional weapons systems”, the authors comment.

Links between militarisation and health security

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public budgets of many countries are likely to come under severe pressure in the coming years as a result of new borrowing. This may also have an effect on militarisation, and this is why the GMI 2020 looks at the link between militarisation and health security. A comparison with the Global Health Security (GHS) Index shows that countries with an average level of militarisation perform best in health security overall. “It cannot be excluded that the high level of resources invested in the military in countries with a particularly high level of militarisation is at the expense of health provision”, Max Mutschler and Marius Bales argue. But whether the prevention of future threats to health security will be given precedence over defence policy, and whether there will be a marked cut in military spending, is an open question. “Which of the two scenarios will play out is likely to depend on the political priorities countries will choose”, the peace and conflict researchers stress.

The GMI 2020 covers 151 states and is based on the latest available figures (in most cases data for 2019). The index project is financially supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Press release "Globaler Militarisierungsindex 2020 \ Weltweite Militarisierungstrends und was sie für die Gesundheitssicherheit bedeuten können" (pdf, in German)