Total world military expenditure rose to $1739 billion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1% in real terms from 2016, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
China’s military expenditure rose again in 2017, continuing an upward trend in spending that has lasted for more than two decades. Russia’s military spending fell for the first time since 1998, while spending by the United States remained constant for the second successive year.
“Continuing high world military expenditure is a cause for serious concern. It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world,” Ambassador Jan Eliasson, SIPRI Governing Board chair, said.
After 13 consecutive years of increases from 1999 to 2011 and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military expenditure rose again in 2017.
Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2% of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $230 per person.
“The increases in world military expenditure in recent years have been largely due to substantial growth in spending by countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia,” said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme.
“At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro–Atlantic region.”
Military expenditure in Asia and Oceania rose for the 29th successive year.
China, the second largest spender globally, increased its military spending by 5.6% to $228 billion in 2017. China’s spending as a share of world military expenditure rose from 5.8% in 2008 to 13% in 2017. India spent $63.9 billion on its military in 2017, an increase of 5.5% compared with 2016, while South Korea’s spending, at $39.2 billion, rose by 1.7% between 2016 and 2017.
“Tensions between China and many of its neighbours continue to drive the growth in military spending in Asia,” said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme.
At $66.3 billion, Russia’s military spending in 2017 was 20% lower than in 2016, the first annual decrease since 1998. “Military modernisation remains a priority in Russia, but the military budget has been restricted by economic problems experienced since 2014,” Wezeman said.
Driven partly by perceptions of a growing Russian threat, military spending in Central and Western Europe increased in 2017, by 12 and 1.7%. Many European states are members of NATO and, within that framework, have agreed to increase military spending.
Total military spending by all 29 NATO members was $900 billion in 2017, accounting for 52% of world spending.
Military expenditure in the Middle East rose by 6.2% in 2017, for countries where data is available.
Spending by Saudi Arabia increased by 9.2% in 2017. With spending of $69.4 billion, Saudi Arabia had the third highest military expenditure in the world in 2017.
Iran (19%) and Iraq (22%) also recorded significant increases in military spending in 2017.
“Despite low oil prices, armed conflict and rivalries throughout the Middle East are driving the rise in military spending in the region,” Wezeman said.
In 2017 military expenditure as a share of GDP, known colloquially as the “military burden”, was highest in the Middle East, at 5.2%. No other region in the world allocated more than 1.8% of GDP to military spending.
The United States continues to have the highest military expenditure in the world.
In 2017 the US spent more on its military than the next seven highest-spending countries combined. At $610 billion, US military spending was unchanged between 2016 and 2017.
“The downward trend in US military spending that started in 2010 has come to an end. US military spending in 2018 is set to rise significantly to support increases in military personnel and modernisation of conventional and nuclear weapons,” Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI AMEX programme, said.