STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Worldwide military spending edged up in 2010 to a record $1.6 trillion, a leading think-tank said on Monday.
Global spending rose 1.3 percent in real terms, a slowdown from 5.9 percent the year before as the economic downturn caused by the 2008 financial crisis hit military spending, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.
"In many cases, the falls or slower increases represent a delayed reaction to the global financial and economic crisis that broke in 2008," it said in a statement, adding that there were regional differences.
Spending in Europe shrank 2.8 percent to $382 billion as governments started to rein in soaring budget deficits.
The biggest cuts were in small economies in central and eastern Europe, and in crisis-struck southern European countries such as Greece.
"Further cuts are expected in most of Europe in 2011 and subsequent years, although these are likely to remain relatively modest in the major spending countries," SIPRI, which conducts independent research on international security, armaments and disarmament, said in a statement.
The Unites States, with costly military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, increased spending by 2.8 percent to $698 billion -- about six times as much as China, the second-biggest spender ahead of Britain, France and Russia. In 2009, U.S. spending grew 7.7 percent.
"The United States has increased its military spending by 81 percent since 2001," SIPRI said. "At 4.8 percent of gross domestic product, U.S. military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East," said SIPRI Military Expenditure Project chief Sam Perlo-Freeman.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom)