With the world appearing to slide ever closer to a major confrontation between the United States and one of its foes, a recent analysis of the world's defense industry by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) gives us a sobering look at the world of war.
According to SIPRI, total global spending on the military reached $1.69 trillion in 2016 with ten nations accounting for $1.23 trillion of the total. The biggest spenders include the United States, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and South Korea.
Here is a graphic showing how U.S. military spending of $611 billion was larger than the spending by the next eight big spenders in total and how the remainder of the world spends less on defense than the nations occupying second through eighth spot:
Let's look at more detail for the top ten nations showing how military spending has varied over the past decade (in 2015 dollars):
1.) United States:
4.) Saudi Arabia:
7.) United Kingdom:
10.) South Korea:
Looking at regional military spending in 2016, we find the following:
1.) Americas - total spending of $693 billion (increase of 0.8 percent from 2015) comprising 41 percent of the global total, spending in North America has decreased by 4.8 percent, spending in South America has decreased by 5.5 percent and in Central America and the Caribbean spending has increased by 50 percent over the past decade.
2.) Asia and Oceania - total spending of $450 billion (increase of 4.6 percent from 2015) comprising 27 percent of the global total. Military spending in the region has risen by 64 percent over the past decade.
3.) Europe - total spending of $334 billion (increase of 2.8 percent from 2015) comprising 20 percent of the global total. Over the past decade, military spending in Western Europe decreased by 6.2 percent, increased by 4.2 percent in Central Europe and increased by a significant 78 percent in Eastern Europe (which includes Russia).
4.) Middle East - data is incomplete but where data is available, military spending increased by 19 percent over the decade.
5.) Africa - total spending of $37.9 billion (decrease of 1.3 percent from 2015) comprising 2.2 percent of the global total. Military spending in the region has risen by 48 percent over the past decade.
While total spending is one indicator of military investment, by looking at how much each nation spends on its military as a percentage of the size of its economy reveals more about the nation's aggressiveness. Here is a graphic showing how military spending as a percentage of GDP varies by region:
Let's look at a few examples of how much the top military spenders are spending as a percentage of GDP keeping in mind that the global average is 2.2 percent:
United States - 3.3 percent of GDP
China - 1.93 percent of GDP
Russia - 5.32 percent of GDP
Saudi Arabia - 10.41 percent of GDP
India - 2.5 percent of GDP
France - 2.27 percent of GDP
United Kingdom - 1.86 percent of GDP
Japan - 0.99 percent of GDP
Germany - 1.19 percent of GDP
South Korea - 2.65 percent of GDP
As a percentage of GDP, spending by Oman outranks all other nations at 16.75 percent followed by Saudi Arabia at 10.41 percent and the Republic of Congo at 7 percent.
It is always an interesting exercise to see what governments around the world are willing to spend on their military endeavours. The vast majority of the trillions of dollars that have been spent boosting national defences goes directly into the pockets of the world's largest defense contractors rather than being spent on social programs like health care that would improve the lives of hundreds of millions around the globe.