Wars around the world drive military spending to double

The United States, China, Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia are among the top five spenders

Researchers announced Monday that global military spending saw its largest increase in over a decade in 2023, reaching an all-time high of $2.4 trillion, due to wars and escalating tensions across the globe.

Military spending rose worldwide with significant increases especially in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Nan Tian, a researcher at SIPRI, said, “Total military spending is at its highest level ever… and for the first time since 2009, we saw an increase in spending on all five continents.”

Military spending increased by 6.8% in 2023, representing “the largest annual increase since 2009,” according to the report. Tian added, “This reflects the deterioration of peace and security worldwide. There is truly no region in the world that is seeing improvement.” The United States, China, Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia were respectively among the top five spenders.

Tian pointed out that the continuation of the war in Ukraine led to increased spending in Ukraine and Russia as well as in “a full set” of European countries. Russia boosted its spending by 24%, reaching $109 billion in 2023, according to SIPRI estimates.

Since 2014, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, the country’s military spending has increased by 57%.

Ukraine’s military spending increased by 51% to reach $64.8 billion, but the country also received $35 billion in military aid, mostly from the United States, meaning that the total aid and spending equate to more than nine-tenths of Russia’s spending.

Tian said that while the total budgets of Moscow and Kiev were relatively close in 2023, Ukraine’s military spending represented 37% of its GDP and 58% of its total government expenditure.

In contrast, Russia, with a larger economy, allocated only 5.9% of its GDP to military spending. Tian said, “So the space available for Ukraine to increase its spending is now very limited.”

In Europe, Poland saw the largest increase in its military spending so far, reaching 75% to reach $31.6 billion.

Spending also increased across the Middle East, with Israel – the second-largest spender in the region – seeing a 24% increase to $27.5 billion in 2023, primarily in response to the attack on Gaza in response to the Hamas attack in October.

Saudi Arabia, the largest spender in the region, also increased its spending by 4.3% to about $75.8 billion. As for the United States, which spends more on its military than any other country, its spending increased by 2.3% to reach $916 billion.

China has increased its military spending for the 29th consecutive year, increasing it by another 6% to about $296 billion. Beijing’s military build-up and worsening tensions in the region have prompted its neighbors to allocate more funds to their armies. Japan spent $50.2 billion last year and Taiwan $16.6 billion, an increase of 11% for both countries.

At the same time, India, the fourth-largest spender in the world, increased its spending by 4.3% to reach $83.6 billion.

In Central America and the Caribbean, increases in spending were driven by other conflicts, such as combating organized crime.

For example, the Dominican Republic increased its spending by 14% to respond to escalating gang violence in neighboring Haiti, which spilled over the borders. Africa also saw an inflation of military budgets.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo more than doubled its spending (+105%) to reach $794 million, the largest increase in any country, as tensions with neighboring Rwanda escalated.

With an increase of 78%, South Sudan saw the second-largest increase, reaching $1.1 billion.

While the war in Ukraine “is nowhere near ending,” as well as the current situation in the Middle East and escalating tensions in Asia, Tian expressed belief that countries will likely continue to bolster their armies. He said, “This upward trend is expected to continue for at least the next few years.”

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