STOCKHOLM, Sweden – World military spending surged during 2003, reaching $956 billion, nearly half of it by the United States as it paid for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror, a prominent European think tank said Wednesday.
The money has been effective in waging war, but threats of terror and weapons of mass destruction still exist, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Military spending rose by 11 percent, which the group called a “remarkable increase.” The amount was up 18 percent from 2001.
The $956 billion spent on defense costs worldwide corresponded to 2.7 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, according to the annual report.
“It’s very close to the Cold War peak in 1987,” said institute researcher Elisabeth Skoens, who co-authored the report.
The research institute also warned of fears that biotechnology research, particularly concerning human genes, could lead to the development of a new class of biological weapons.
The United States led the world in defense spending, accounting for 47 percent of the total, followed by Japan with 5 percent and Britain, France and China, with 4 percent each.
The 2003 rise in defense spending coincided with a decrease in the number of conflicts worldwide, which fell to 19, the second-lowest since the think tank began issuing the reports 35 years ago.
The research institute also noted that 14 separate peace missions began last year, the most since the end of the Cold War.