World Military Expenditures Exceed $2T for First Time
STOCKHOLM — Worldwide military spending reached an all-time high of $2.113 trillion in 2021, the seventh consecutive year of increased global military expenditures.
Data published on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found the world’s top military spenders in 2021 were the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom and Russia, respectively. Together, those countries accounted for 62% of global military spending.
As a result of the sluggish global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, world military expenditures as a share of the global gross domestic product fell slightly from 2.3% in 2020 to 2.2% in 2021.
“Even amid the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, world military spending hit record levels,” Diego Lopes da Silva, senior researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program, said in a written statement. “There was a slowdown in the rate of real-terms growth due to inflation. In nominal terms, however, military spending grew by 6.1%.”
This increase amounts to a 0.7% gain over the previous year, according to SIPRI’s findings. SIPRI’s military expenditure database has published a comprehensive update of military spending each year since 1949.
Iran’s military budget increased for the first time in four years to $24.6 billion in 2021. Funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps steadily increased last year by 14% compared with 2020.
India’s military spending, the third-highest in the world, was up 0.9% from 2020. Sixty-four percent of capital outlays in India’s military budget in 2021 were earmarked for acquisitions of arms produced domestically.
However, U.S. military spending dropped by 1.4% over the previous year to around $801 billion, according to the report. As funding for military research and development rose by 24% between 2021 and 2022, arms procurement funding fell by 6.4% in the same time span.
Consequently, the domestic military burden in the U.S. decreased from 3.7% of GDP in 2020 to 3.5% in 2021. Arms procurement spending constituted a higher total reduction than that of R&D spending last year.
“The increase in R&D spending over the decade 2012-21 suggests that the United States is focusing more on next-generation technologies,” SIPRI researcher Alexandra Marksteiner said of the report. “The U.S. government has repeatedly stressed the need to preserve the U.S. military’s technological edge over strategic competitors.”
Russia’s military spending increased by 2.9% to $65.9 billion over the previous year prior to its invasion of Ukraine. In its third consecutive year of expenditure growth, Russia’s military spending reached 4.1% of its total GDP.
Russia’s national defense budget comprises three-quarters of the country’s total military spending and includes funding for operational costs in addition to arms procurement.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military spending has risen by 72% since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Eight European North Atlantic Treaty Organization members reached the alliance’s target of spending 2% or more of their respective GDP for armed forces in 2021. Although the number of NATO allies with 2% or more of their GDP being military spending decreased by one last year, two others have met this goal since 2014.
China allocated an estimated $293 billion to its military in 2021, an increase of 4.7% over 2020 expenditures. Military spending in China has increased for 27 consecutive years, according to the report.
“China’s growing assertiveness in and around the South and the East China seas [has] become a major driver of military spending in countries such as Australia and Japan,” SIPRI Senior Researcher Nan Tian said in a written statement. “An example is the AUKUS trilateral security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that foresees the supply of eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia at an estimated cost of up to $128 billion.”
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