The world’s biggest military spenders

The latest Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) military expenditure report reveals which countries budgeted the most for military spending in 2014.

According to the report, global military expenditure in 2014 was an estimated $1,776 billion, representing a marginal fall of about 0.4% in real terms compared to 2013.

Total expenditure was equivalent to 2.3% of global gross domestic product (GDP). This is the third consecutive year that total global military expenditure has decreased.

However, the falls during the previous two years have been comparatively small.

The USA remains clearly the world’s largest military spender, with a US$610 billion spend nearly three times the level of second-placed China (US$216 billion).

The world leader’s military budget is bigger than the next seven countries combined, and accounts for almost 35% of the world total.

Despite this, the USA’s expenditure dropped by 6.5% in 2014, “largely as a result of budget deficit control measures put in place by the US legislature”, according to Sipri. Further, US military spending is expected to fall again in 2015, but at a slower rate.

Top 15 Military spenders
Top 15 Military spenders
# Country Military Spend 2005-2014 Change
1 United States $610.0 billion -0.4%
2 China $216.0 billion 167%
3 Russia $84.5 billion 97%
4 Saudi Arabia $80.3 billion 112%
5 France $62.3 billion -3.2%
6 UK $60.5 billion -5.5%
7 India $50.0 billion 39%
8 Germany $46.5 billion -0.8%
9 Japan $45.8 billion -3.7%
10 South Korea $36.7 billion 34%
11 Brazil $31.7 billion 41%
12 Italy $30.9 billion -27%
13 Australia $25.4 billion 27%
14 UAE $22.8 billion 135%
15 Turkey $22.6 billion 15%
Top 15 $1,427 billion
World Total $1,776 billion 21%

While South Africa is not specifically mentioned by the 2014 report, the country forms part of the Sub-Saharan Africa region, which spent an estimated US$30.1 billion in 2014 – up 4.8% from 2013.

According to Sipri, military spending in the region had increased over 66% since 2005.

Africa as a whole saw the largest year-on-year increase in military expenditure of any region in the world, at 5.9%, reaching $50.2 billion in 2014.

Military spending in the region has almost doubled (increasing by 91%) since 2005.

Military Expenditure

Sipri military expenditure data includes all current and capital expenditure on:

  • Armed forces, including peacekeeping forces,
  • Defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects,
  • Paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations, and
  • Military space activities.

Algeria and Angola are the biggest spenders on the continent, and continued their rapid military spending increase, financed by high oil revenues.

Algeria increased spending 12% to reach $11.9 billion, and Angola by 6.7% to hit $6.8 billion.

“These countries have respectively trebled and doubled their spending in real terms since 2005, and both now spend more than 5% of their GDP on the military. It remains to be seen whether the crash in oil prices in late 2014 will halt this trend,” Sipri said.

In 2013, Angola increased its spending by 36%, to overtake South Africa as the largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa’s military budget was R40.2 billion in 2013 (recorded as US$4.1 billion, at the time), and R42.8 billion was budgeted in 2014.

The dollar value of 2014’s military budget is at US$3.5 billion, up from 2013’s US$3.3 billion, at today’s rates.

The biggest increases in spending on the continent were from the Republic of Congo, which saw spend increase 88%, Namibia (47%) and Zambia (23%).

On the other side, the coninent also saw sizeable decreases in military spending from some countries such as Malawi (-27%), Nigeria (-9.3%) and Ghana (-5.8%).

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The world’s biggest military spenders