Apr 24, 2023 - World

U.S. spent more on military in 2022 than next 10 countries combined

Top countries in military spending, 2022
Data: SIPRI; Chart: Axios Visuals

Countries around the world spent a combined $2.24 trillion on their militaries last year, a 3.7% increase on last year's previous record high when adjusted for inflation, according to an annual report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The big picture: Many of the biggest increases came in Europe as countries responded to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. continued to top the chart, spending $877 billion on defense last year. That was more than the next 10 countries combined.

  • U.S. spending increased only slightly over 2021, even when factoring in an estimated $20 billion in direct military aid to Ukraine. China's military budget grew by 4% in Beijing's 28th consecutive annual increase, according to SIPRI's data.
  • Russia increased its spending by 9% to $86 billion last year. Meanwhile, Ukraine ($44 billion) increased spending by a whopping 640% to move from 36th to 11th on SIPRI's annual list of the 40 biggest spenders.

Next came India ($81 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($75 billion), which both spent significantly more in 2022 than the previous year.

  • The rest of the top 15 is made up mainly of U.S. allies like the U.K. ($69 billion), Germany ($59 billion), Japan ($46 billion), South Korea ($46 billion), Australia ($32 billion) and Israel ($23 billion).
  • Iran ($7 billion), the only country in the top 40 after China and Russia that has adversarial relations with the U.S., sits 34th between Belgium and Switzerland.

Zoom in: Several countries in Europe including Poland (+11%), Sweden (+12%) and the Netherlands (+12%), increased spending significantly last year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • While European spending jumped significantly, the increases were not uniform. Military spending was flat in France and actually fell in Italy when adjusted for inflation. Most allies remain below NATO's spending target of 2% of GDP, though many (including Italy) have plans to get there.
  • Military spending in Taiwan ($13 billion) increased slightly last year but remains at just 1.6% of GDP despite growing fears of a Chinese invasion.
  • Among the top 40 spenders, Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia (7.4%) and Qatar (7.0%) spent the highest shares of GDP on their militaries, with the exception of Ukraine (34%).
    • Otherwise, only Russia (4.1%), Israel (4.5%), Algeria (4.8%) and Greece (3.7%) spent higher percentages of GDP than the U.S. (3.5%).

The flipside: Less than 1% of global military expenditure came in sub-Saharan Africa — the only region in which spending decreased vs. 2021.

  • The biggest spender in the region, Nigeria ($3.1 billion), cut spending by 38% after massively increasing it in 2021 to combat insurgent groups like Boko Haram. Last year, the government directed a large share of discretionary spending to flood relief.
  • The U.S. accounted for 91% of all military spending in the Americas last year, with other big countries in the region like Mexico (0.6%) generally spending far less than the global average as a proportion of GDP.

The trend: Global military spending has increased every year since 2015 and was 19% higher last year than 10 years prior, adjusted for inflation. The 3.7% real terms increase was one of the larger recent year-over-year jumps.

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