World military expenditure continues to climb while African defence expenditure drops

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Global military expenditure continued to increase last year, remaining well over the $2 trillion mark, although defence expenditure in Africa fell for the first time since 2018.

This is according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which in a new report last month stated that total global military expenditure increased by 3.7% in real terms in 2022, to reach a new high of $2 240 billion.

Military expenditure in Europe saw its steepest year-on-year increase (13%) in at least 30 years and was largely accounted for by Russian and Ukrainian spending. However, military aid to Ukraine and concerns about a heightened threat from Russia strongly influenced many other states’ spending decisions, as did tensions in East Asia.

“The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world,” said Dr Nan Tian, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future.”

Military expenditure by states in Central and Western Europe totalled $345 billion in 2022. In real terms, spending by these states for the first time surpassed that in 1989, as the cold war was ending, and was 30% higher than in 2013. Several states significantly increased their military spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, while others announced plans to raise spending levels over periods of up to a decade, SIPRI said. Some of the sharpest increases were seen in Finland (+36%), Lithuania (+27%), Sweden (+12%) and Poland (+11%).

Russian military spending grew by an estimated 9.2% in 2022, to around $86.4 billion. This was equivalent to 4.1% of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, up from 3.7% of GDP in 2021. Figures released by Russia in late 2022 show that spending on national defence, the largest component of Russian military expenditure, was already 34% higher, in nominal terms, than in budgetary plans drawn up in 2021.

“The difference between Russia’s budgetary plans and its actual military spending in 2022 suggests the invasion of Ukraine has cost Russia far more than it anticipated,” said Dr Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, Director of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

Ukraine’s military spending reached $44.0 billion in 2022. At 640%, this was the highest single-year increase in a country’s military expenditure ever recorded in SIPRI data. As a result of the increase and the war-related damage to Ukraine’s economy, the military burden (military spending as a share of GDP) shot up to 34% of GDP in 2022, from 3.2% in 2021.

US continues to dominate spending

The United States remains by far the world’s biggest military spender. US military spending reached $877 billion in 2022, which was 39% of total global military spending and three times more than the amount spent by China, the world’s second largest spender.

“The increase in the USA’s military spending in 2022 was largely accounted for by the unprecedented level of financial military aid it provided to Ukraine,” said Dr Nan Tian, SIPRI Senior Researcher. “Given the scale of US spending, even a minor increase in percentage terms has a significant impact on the level of global military expenditure.”

US financial military aid to Ukraine totalled $19.9 billion in 2022. Although this was the largest amount of military aid given by any country to a single beneficiary in any year since the cold war, it represented only 2.3% of total US military spending.

The combined military expenditure of countries in Asia and Oceania was $575 billion. This was 2.7% more than in 2021 and 45% more than in 2013, continuing an uninterrupted upward trend dating back to at least 1989.

China remained the world’s second largest military spender, allocating an estimated $292 billion in 2022. This was 4.2% more than in 2021 and 63% more than in 2013. China’s military expenditure has increased for 28 consecutive years, SIPRI data showed.

African trends

In Africa, military spending totalled $39.4 billion in 2022. Aggregated spending in the region fell for the first time since 2018 and was 5.3% lower than in 2021 and 6.4% lower than in 2013. Standing at an estimated $19.1 billion in 2022, military expenditure by North African countries was 3.2% lower than in 2021 but still 11% higher than in 2013.

Algeria and Morocco together accounted for almost three quarters (74%) of military spending in the subregion. The territorial dispute between the two countries related to Western Sahara, which is often a major influence on their military spending policies, continued in 2022. Despite this, Algeria’s military spending fell by 3.7% to $9.1 billion, while Morocco’s remained unchanged, at $5.0 billion.

The combined military expenditure of countries in sub-Saharan Africa was $20.3 billion in 2022. This was a decrease of 7.3% from 2021 and of 18% from 2013. The drop in military expenditure in 2022 was primarily due to decreases in spending by the two largest spenders in the subregion, Nigeria and South Africa.

Nigeria’s military spending fell by 38% to $3.1 billion in 2022. Although Nigeria continued to face a wide range of security challenges (e.g. farmer–herder conflict and violent extremism) during 2022, the devastating seasonal floods that hit the country that year led to a substantial shift in the government’s budgetary priorities. Whereas 73% of the 2021 supplemental budget was allocated to strengthening military capabilities, the 2022 supplemental budget had no funding for the military and focused instead on rebuilding infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the floods.

South Africa’s military spending fell for the second consecutive year to reach $3.0 billion in 2022, SIPRI reported. Its spending was 8.4% lower than in 2021 and 21% lower than in 2013. The country’s ailing economy has put severe pressure on government finances, which led to cuts to the military budget in 2022.

In 2022 Ethiopia recorded the largest annual percentage increase in military spending of any country in Africa, which coincided with a renewed government offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the north of the country. Ethiopia’s military spending rose by 88% during the year to reach $1.0 billion, SIPRI’s new report revealed.