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Saudi Arabia Has World’s Highest Per Capita Spending for Defense; Israel is Second

Israel’s per capita defense expenditures rose sharply this year and remains by far the highest in the world except for oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The sum spent for defense in 1981 was $1,835 for every man, woman and child in the Jewish State, up from $1,333 in 1980. The Saudis spent $2,664 per capita. The United States, in contrast, will spend only $759 and Britain $512 for each of their citizens.

Saudi Arabia’s 1981 defense spending of $27 billion is bigger than that of any country in Western Europe except Britain. Its increase alone since last year amounted to about $7 billion, equal to Israel’s entire 1981 defense spending.

These figures were published recently by the International Institute For Strategic Studies in its annual military balance sheets. They showed that Israel also leads the world in its defense budget’s portion of her gross national product. Although it has fallen to 23 percent from 35 percent last year and a staggering 50 percent in 1975, it remains at a level unmatched anywhere else.

The Soviet Union and Syria come next. Their defense bills range from 12 to 14 percent of GNP. Most other countries are in low single digits.

In its introduction to the military balance, the Institute said it saw no slow-down in arms exports to the Middle East and other areas of the Third World from the Soviet Union, United States or Europe. “The sales of very high performance aircraft continue to provide a form of diplomatic currency in the Near East with a number of countries seeking primarily high performance American aircraft,” the report said.

The net effect, the Institute observed, is to raise questions over the ability of some states to assimilate weapon systems. The military balance identifies no fewer than 60 major arms deals with Middle Eastern countries between July 1980 and June 1981.

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