YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia has become the third most militarized country in the world after Israel and Singapore, according to an annual survey conducted by a German think-tank promoting peace.
In its 2014 Global Militarization Index (GMI) released this week, the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) rated “the weight and importance of the military apparatus” in 152 states. Its resulting rankings are based on comparisons between their defense spending and Gross Domestic Products and health expenditure as well as the ratio of their military force to the size of the population.
Armenia occupies third place in the latest GMI, giving it a higher “level of militarization” than any other country in wider Europe, including its arch-foes Turkey and Azerbaijan. The latter is 10th in the rankings despite the fact that the Azerbaijani defense budget exceeds Armenia’s entire state budget.
“Military expenditure in 2013 by Armenia reached $427 million, while expenditures in Azerbaijan grew to $3.4 billion. In Armenia, the share of military expenditures in GDP is 4 percent; in Azerbaijan it is 4.7 percent,” explains the survey funded by the German government.
“With 4.5 per cent share of the GDP, health expenditures in Armenia are only marginally higher than military spending; in Azerbaijan, this share amounts to 5.4 per cent,” it says. “Per 1,000 inhabitants, Armenia has 17.9 soldiers and paramilitaries and 3.6 physicians; in Azerbaijan, there are 8.9 soldiers and paramilitaries and 3.5 physicians per 1,000 inhabitants.”
Military expenditure is projected to rise by 3 percent in Azerbaijan and remain virtually unchanged in dollar terms in Armenia next year. Over 15 percent of the Armenian government’s total spending in 2015, projected at around $3 billion, is to be channeled into national defense.
Yerevan relies heavily on military aid from Russia, its main ally, in trying to offset Azerbaijan’s decade-long military build-up financed from massive oil revenues. Baku too buys most of its weapons from Russia.
The BICC noted this fact, saying that the armed forces of both South Caucasus foes are “highly dependent on Russian support.” Armenia will not be able to end this dependence in the foreseeable future, it said.
Azerbaijani leaders regularly threaten to launch military action to take back Karabakh and surrounding Armenian territories.