STOCKHOLM -- Global military spending dipped slightly in 2012 due to belt-tightening and cuts in war spending by the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries while it rose in China and Russia, a Swedish-based peace research institute said Monday.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated that global military expenditure totalled $1.75 trillion in 2012, down 0.5 percent from 2011, adding it was the first drop in real terms since 1998.
Despite the fall, global military spending was still higher in real terms than its peak at the end of the Cold War.
The U.S. remained the world's largest spender at $682 billion, down 6 percent from 2011, mainly due to reduced spending in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while the U.S. share of global spending dropped to just under 40 percent for the first time since 1991, the U.S. expenditure was higher than the combined spending of the next 10 countries, SIPRI said.
Second-placed China spent an estimated $166 billion, up almost 8 percent from 2011. SIPRI calculated that Russia in third place increased its spending by 16 percent to $90.7 billion.
The other top spenders were Britain, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany and Italy.
SIPRI estimated that global spending would decline in the coming two to three years, mainly as NATO countries leave Afghanistan.
Spending in western and central Europe was down 1.6 percent compared to 2011. This was in line with a trend that SIPRI traced back to the 2008 financial crisis, and ensuing military budget cuts.
Eastern Europe was the region with the highest spending increase at 15.3 percent, with Ukraine increasing expenditure by 24 percent. Russia was due to continue its increased spending in 2013-15.
"We are seeing what may be the beginning of a shift in the balance of world military spending from the rich Western countries to emerging regions," said Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI's military expenditure and arms production program.
In the Middle East, military spending was estimated to have increased by 8.3 percent. Saudi Arabia spent 12 percent more year-on-year while Oman increased its spending by 51 percent -- the largest increase in the world, SIPRI said.
Data was lacking for several countries in the region, including Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. SIPRI said it was too early to assess the impact of the Arab Spring on spending trends.
Spending in North Africa was up almost 8 percent, with oil and gas producer Algeria continuing its arms procurements.
In Asia, spending rose 3.3 percent in 2012, a lower pace than in previous years. The increase was mainly driven by China, while India cut its spending.
Military spending in South America increased by 3.8 percent, despite a slight reduction in Brazil's military budget. Brazil accounts for about half the region's expenditure. Spending increased in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
In sub-Saharan Africa, military spending dropped for the first time since 2003, down 3.2 percent but data was sketchy.
SIPRI said its figures include salaries, costs for operations, purchases of arms and equipment as well as research and development.
The Swedish parliament created SIPRI as an independent foundation in 1966.