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The United States remained the world’s biggest military spender in 2015, but its ally Saudi Arabia is now in third.

World military expenditures totaled almost US$1.7 trillion in 2015, a 1 percent increase from the year before and the first increase in military spending since 2011, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released Tuesday.

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The United States remained the world’s biggest military spender in 2015, despite a spending drop of 2.4 percent to US$596 billion.

Elsewhere, China boosted its spending on military endeavors by 7.4 percent to US$215 billion while Saudi Arabia spent US$87.2 billion, making it the world’s third-largest spender. Saudi Arabia's military budget would have fallen, according to SIPRI, "but for the additional US$5.3 billion cost of its military intervention in Yemen."

Russia also set aside more funds for its defense operations, spending US$66.4 billion, a 7.5 percent increase from 2014.

Countries most concerned by Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, increased their military expenditures by a total of 13 percent between them.

Western Europe, as a whole, cut military spending by 1.3 percent, the report says.

The SIPRI report notes high oil prices and new oil discoveries and exploitation have contributed to a surge in military spending in many countries around the world in the past decade. However, the crash in oil prices which started in 2014 has begun to reverse this trend in many oil revenue-dependent countries.

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While many countries have chosen to slash social programs in the name of austerity, Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, slashed military spending by 64 percent in 2015. Angola saw a decrease of 42 percent.

Bahrain, Brunei, Chad, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Oman and South Sudan also cut military spending.

“Military spending in 2015 presents contrasting trends,” said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI’s military expenditure project.

“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-fueled surge in military spending of the past decade. This volatile economic and political situation creates an uncertain picture for the years to come,” he said.

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