WASHINGTON — Overall military expenditures rose 2.6 percent between 2017 and 2018, to hit a total of $1.82 trillion, according to new research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The total from 2018 is 5.4 percent higher than 2009, and represents a 76 percent increase over 1998, a 20-year period.
Sixty percent of global military spending came from five countries: The United States ($649 billion), China ($250 billion), Saudi Arabia ($67.6 billion), India ($66.5 billion) and France ($63.8 billion). Russia ($61.4 billion) and the United Kingdom ($50 billion) were the other two countries to spend $50 billion or more on defense.
However, there are ups and downs among the biggest spenders. While the U.S. (4.6 percent, the first overall growth since 2010), China (5 percent) and India (3.1 percent) increased their respective military spending year over year, Saudi Arabia cut its spending by 6.5 percent, France by 1.4 percent and Russia by 3.5 percent.
And overall defense spending per gross domestic product fell to 2.1 percent in 2018, representing $239 per global citizen, a 0.1 percent decrease over one year and a 0.5 percent decrease over 10 years.
Notably, Russia ranked outside the top five for the first time since 2006. China, meanwhile, increased its military spending for the 24th consecutive year, and its spending is almost 10 times higher than it was in 1994; however, researchers warn that Chinese growth may slow in the coming year.
“The annual rate of growth of China’s military spending has slowed steadily since it reached a post-2009 high of 9.3 percent in 2013. The growth of 5.0 percent in 2018 was the lowest annual increase since 1995,” the authors note. “China has followed a policy of linking growth in military spending with economic growth. With its economic growth slowing in 2018 to the lowest level in 28 years, slower rates of growth in the coming years can be expected if China continues to follow this policy.”
SIPRI, which is widely considered to be the authority on military expenditures and exports, having gathered such data for decades. Other key developments, as noted by the researchers:
- Military spending in South America rose by 3.1 percent in 2018. This was mainly due to the increase in Brazilian spending (by 5.1 percent), the second increase in as many years.
- Military expenditure in Africa fell by 8.4 percent in 2018, the fourth consecutive annual decrease since the peak in spending in 2014. There were major decreases in spending by Algeria (–6.1 percent), Angola (–18 percent) and Sudan (–49 percent).
- Military spending by states in the Middle East, for which data is available, fell by 1.9 percent in 2018.
- Total military expenditure by all 29 NATO members was $963 billion in 2018, which accounted for 53 percent of world spending.
- Military spending in Turkey increased by 24 percent in 2018 to $19 billion, the highest annual percentage increase among the world’s top 15 military spenders.
- Six of the 10 countries with the highest military burden (military spending as a proportion of GDP) in the world in 2018 are in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia (8.8 percent of GDP), Oman (8.2 percent), Kuwait (5.1 percent), Lebanon (5 percent), Jordan (4.7 percent) and Israel (4.3 percent).
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.