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The Countries With the Most Military Spendingv

This article is published in collaboration with Visual Capitalista

by Iman Ghosh

Mapped: The Countries With the Most Military Spending

Whether it’s fight or flight, there’s a natural tendency of humans to want to protect themselves.

In this day and age, this base instinct takes the form of a nation’s expenditures on armies and armaments, towards an end goal of global security and peacekeeping.

This graphic from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) delves into the top military spenders as of 2019.

Top 10 Biggest Military Spenders

Let’s first take a look at the overall growth trends. The world’s military spending grew by 3.6% year-over-year (YoY)—currently the highest rate this decade—to surpass $1.9 trillion in 2019.

While just 10 countries are responsible for nearly 75% of this amount, the U.S. alone made up the lion’s share with 38% of the global total. In fact, its YoY rise in spending alone of $49.2 billion rivals Germany’s entire spending for the same year.

Naturally, many questions rise about where this money goes, including the inevitable surplus of military equipment, from night vision goggles to armored vehicles, that trickles down to law enforcement around the nation.

Here’s how world’s top 10 military spenders compare against each other:

China and India, currently embroiled in a border dispute, have upped the ante for military spending in Asia. India is also involved in clashes with its neighbor Pakistan for territorial claim over Kashmir—one of the most contested borders in the world.

India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending.

Siemon T. Wezeman, SIPRI Senior Researcher

Germany leads among the top spenders in terms of highest YoY military spending increases. According to SIPRI, this is a preemptive measure in the face of perceived growing Russian threats.

These concerns may not be unfounded, considering that Russia comes in fourth for defense expenditures on the global stage—and budgets more towards military spending than any country in Europe, at 3.9% of its total GDP.

Military Spending as a Share of GDP

Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s clear that some nations place a higher value on defense than others. A country’s military expenses as a share of GDP is the most straightforward expression of this.

How do the biggest spenders change when this measure is taken into consideration?

Eight of the 15 countries with the highest military spending as a percentage of GDP are concentrated in the Middle East, with an average allocation of 4.5% of a nation’s GDP.

It’s worth noting that data is missing for various countries in the Middle East, such as Yemen, which has been mired in a civil war since 2011. While SIPRI estimates that combined military spending in the region fell by 7.5% in 2019, these significant data gaps mean that such estimates may not in fact line up with the reality.

Explore the full data set of all available countries below.

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