Features, defence, north america, asia, europe

By OMX | May 3, 2018

Worldwide military spending is at its highest since the end of the Cold War.

Find out how $1.7 trillion in global military spending breaks down - and how countries and regions are changing in 2018 and the future.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released a new 8-page report on "Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2017."

After more than a decade of consecutive increases in worldwide military spending from 1999 to 2011 and relatively static spending from 2012 to 2016, total worldwide military expenditure has risen again in 2017.

Graphs below are from SIPRI. All spending figures are in 2017 current U.S. dollars. All percentages are in real terms (i.e. constant 2016 prices).


Global trends

  • In 2017, global military expenditure reached $1739 billion, marking an increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms on 2016.
  • In 2017, total military spending accounted for 2.2 per cent of global gross domestic product.



 By the largest military spenders

  • The 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2017 remained unchanged from 2016, although there were some changes
  • The five biggest spenders in 2017 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India. Together, they make up 60 per cent of global military spending.
  • There is a significant spending gap between the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and India, who all spent over $60 billion, France who spent $58 billion and the other 9 countries, who spent less than $50 billion



Changes in largest military spenders for 2016 - 2017

  • Military expenditure by the U.S. remained unchanged in 2017 at $610 billion.
  • China increased its military spending by 5.6 per cent yoy
  • Saudi Arabia increased its military spending by 9.2 per cent yoy
  • India increased its military spending by 5.5 per cent yoy
  • Russia’s military spending fell by 20 per cent yoy



Changes in largest military spenders for 2008-2017

  • China, Turkey, India Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia all had large increases in military spending in the last 10 years (more than 30%)
  • South Korea, Brazil, and Canada had moderate increases in military spending in the last 10 years (10 - 30%)
  • Germany, France, and Japan had minor increases in military spending in the last years (less than 10%)
  • Military spending fell in Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.
  • Notably, spending fell by 14% or $95 billion in the U.S. over the last decade

By region

  • Military expenditure increased in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Central and South Asia, East Asia and Central and Western Europe.
  • The total military expenditure of the countries in the Middle East for which data is available also increased.
  • Military spending decreased in North Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and Eastern Europe.
  • Military expenditure remained unchanged in North America and South East Asia.



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Key analysis and regional trends

U.S. military spending remains static - but is predicted to increase in 2018

The United States spent $610 billion in 2017 - the same as it did in 2016. The U.S. has by far the highest military spending in the world - more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined.

SIPRI predicts spending will rise significantly in 2018 due to increases in military personnel and the modernization of conventional and nuclear arms.

Spending increases in Asia and Oceania led by China

For the 29th year in a row, military spending has increased in Asia and Oceania.

China, the second largest military spender (after the U.S.), increased its military spending by 5.6% to $228 billion in 2017. China has more than doubled the proportion of their share in global military spending in the last decade: from 5.8% in 2008 to 13% in 2017.

China had the largest absolute increase in spending at $12 billion in 2017.

India also increased their military spending by 5.5% from 2016 to $63.9 billion in 2017.

South Korea experience just under 2% growth in 2017, having spent $39.2 billion.

SIPRI sees tensions between China and its geopolitical neighbors as driving the continued growth in Asia.

Spending increases in Central and Western Europe - but falls in Russia

Russia's military spending fell for the first time since 1998 - and it fell by a lot. Russia spent $66.3 billion in 2017 - 20% lower than it did in 2016. This is largely due to a diminishing military budget due to economic problems.

Russia had the largest absolute decrease in spending at -$13.9 billion in 2017.

On the other hand, military spending in Central Europe increased by 12% in 2017.

Military spending in Western Europe increased by 1.7%.

Total military spending in 2017 by the 29 NATO members (which consists of many European states) was at $900 billion. Many European NATO members have agreed to increase military spending in 2018.

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Spending increases in the Middle East led by Saudi Arabia

Military spending increased by 6.2% in 2017 for the Middle East. Military spending accounted for 5.2% of the Middle East's GDP - the highest of any region. (For comparison, no other region exceeded 1.8% of GDP to military spending.)

This spending was led by Saudia Arabia, who spent $69.4 billion on the military in 2017, making them the third largest spender.

Iran and Iraq led the largest proportional increases to military spending at 19% and 22% from 2016 to 2017 respectively.

7 of the 10 countries with the highest percent of military expenditure as a share of GDP were in the Middle East: Oman (12%), Saudi Arabia (10%), Kuwait (5.8%), Jordan (4.8%), Israel (4.7%), Lebanon (4.5%) and Bahrain (4.1%).


SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. Based in Stockholm, SIPRI also has a presence in Beijing, and is regularly ranked among the most respected think tanks worldwide.



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