US, Philippines start two-week military drills as maritime tension with China rises
U.S. Marines sit atop an amphibious assault vehicle during assault exercises with Philippine marine troops in joint drills held in October 2015 Reuters

Influenced mainly by China, military spending in Asia and Oceania has grown 5.4% in 2015 while growth was just 1% globally, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

World military expenditure totalled almost $1.7trn in 2015, which marks the first increase since 2011. The major contributors are from Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states, SIPRI said.

The decline in spending in the West is also levelling off even as spending decreased in Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, making the global picture a mixed one.

The biggest spender remained the USA despite a 2.4% decline to $596bn in the 2015 expenditure.

China's, which is driving global defence budgets higher, increased spending 7.4% last year to $215bn, Saudi Arabia increased it by 5.7% to $87.2bn and Russia allowed it to expand 7.5% to $66.4bn.

Experts at the Swedish think tank says that the slide in oil prices is one factor pressuring down military expenditure globally. The most dramatic oil revenue-related reductions in spending in 2015 were in Venezuela, where the spending was down 64% and Angola which saw a 42% decline.

However, some of the oil-exporting countries continued to increase their spending despite the slide in revenues as they were involved in conflict or faced with regional tensions. Algeria, Azerbaijan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam are examples.

However, Russia's expenditure was lower than projected in its budget, and Saudi Arabia's spending would have fallen but for the additional $5.3bn cost of its military intervention in Yemen. Both the countries are planning cuts in 2016.

North American, Western and Central European Countries

Signs in 2015 show that the decline in spending in these regions experienced since 2009 is coming to an end. It was the global economic crisis and the withdrawal of most US and allied troops from Afghanistan and Iraq that aided the downside over the past five years.

Taken together, spending in Western and Central Europe was down by just 0.2% in 2015 but in Central Europe alone spending was up 13%, as per SIPRI data.

Western European expenditure was down 1.3% but this was the lowest rate of annual decline since the start of the recent fall in spending, which began in 2010.

There were particularly large increases in countries bordering Russia and Ukraine—namely Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia—which are those most concerned about Russia's intentions following the crisis in Ukraine.

The United Kingdom, France and Germany have all announced plans for modest spending increases in the coming years sparked by concerns about Russia and the threat posed by the Islamic State.

"On the one hand, spending trends reflect the escalating conflict and tension in many parts of the world; on the other hand, they show a clear break from the oil-fuelled surge in military spending of the past decade," said Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI's military expenditure project.

"This volatile economic and political situation creates an uncertain picture for the years to come."