World military spending rises for the ninth year

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World military expenditure is up for the ninth consecutive year to an all-time high of $2 443 billion as war, rising tensions and insecurity manifest in various parts of the world.

For the first time since 2009, military expenditure went up in all five geographical regions defined by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), with particularly large increases recorded in Europe, Asia and Oceania and the Middle East.

“The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security. States are prioritising military strength but they risk an action–reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape,” Nan Tian, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme, said to coincide with the release of new data on global military spending.

SIPRI found that military expenditure in Africa totalled $51.6 billion in 2023. It was 22% higher than in 2022 and 1.5% higher than in 2014. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) saw the largest percentage increase in military spending – 105% – by any country in 2023. There has been and is protracted conflict between government and non-state armed groups.

South Sudan recorded the second largest percentage increase of 78% amid internal violence and spill-over from the Sudanese civil war.

Last year, military spending in Algeria grew by 76% to reach $18.3 billion. This is the highest level of expenditure ever recorded by Algeria and was largely due to a sharp rise in revenue from gas exports to countries in Europe as they moved away from Russian supplies.

European defence spending on the rise

SIPRI found that Russia’s military spending increased by 24% to an estimated $109 billion in 2023, marking a 57% rise since 2014, the year Russia annexed Crimea. In 2023 Russia’s military spending made up 16% of total government spending and its military burden (military spending as a share of gross domestic product [GDP]) was 5.9%.

Ukraine was the eighth largest spender in 2023, after a spending surge of 51% to reach $64.8 billion. This gave Ukraine a military burden of 37% and represented 58% of total government spending.

Ukraine’s military spending in 2023 was 59%the size of Russia’s. Ukraine also received at least $35 billion in military aid during the year, including $25.4 billion from the United States (US). Combined, this aid and Ukraine’s own military spending equalled about 91% of Russian spending.

In 2023, NATO’s 31 members accounted for $1 341 billion, 55% of the world’s military expenditure. Military spending by the US rose by 2.3% to reach $916 billion in 2023, representing 68% of total NATO military spending. In 2023 most European NATO members increased military expenditure. Their combined share of the NATO total was 28%, the highest in a decade. The remaining four percent came from Canada and Turkey, SIPRI data showed.

“For European NATO states, the past two years of war in Ukraine have fundamentally changed the security outlook. This shift in threat perceptions is reflected in growing shares of GDP being directed towards military spending, with the NATO target of two percent increasingly seen as a baseline rather than a threshold to reach,” Lorenzo Scarazzato, Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme, said.

A decade after NATO formally committed to a target of spending two percent of GDP on the military, 11 out of 31 NATO members met or surpassed this level in 2023 — the highest since the commitment was made. Another target — of directing at least 20% of military spending to “equipment spending” — was met by 28 NATO members in 2023, up from seven in 2014.

China, the world’s second largest military spender, allocated an estimated $296 billion to the military in 2023, an increase of six percent from 2022. This was the 29th consecutive year-on-year rise in China’s military expenditure. China accounted for half of total military spending across the Asia and Oceania region. Several China neighbours linked spending increases to China’s rising military expenditure, according to SIPRI

Japan allocated $50.2 billion to its military in 2023, 11 percent more than in 2022. Taiwan’s military expenditure also grew by 11% in 2023, reaching $16.6 billion.

“China is directing much of its growing military budget to boost the combat readiness of the People’s Liberation Army. This has prompted the governments of Japan, Taiwan and others to significantly build up their military capabilities, a trend that will accelerate further in the coming years,” Xiao Liang, Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme, said.

War and Middle East tensions fuel spending increase

Estimated military expenditure in the Middle East increased by nine percent to $200 billion in 2023 – the highest annual growth rate in the region in the past decade.

Israel’s military spending – the second largest in the region behind Saudi Arabia – grew by 24% to reach $27.5 billion in 2023. The spending increase was mainly driven by Israel’s largescale offensive in Gaza in response to the attack on southern Israel by Hamas in October 2023.

“The large increase in military spending in the Middle East in 2023 reflected the rapidly shifting situation in the region – from the warming of diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab countries in recent years to the outbreak of a major war in Gaza and fears of a region-wide conflict,” said Diego Lopes da Silva, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

In other notable developments, India was the fourth largest military spender globally in 2023. At $83.6 billion, its military expenditure was 4.2% higher than in 2022.