This Country Spends the Most on War

Military spending across many of the world’s nations is likely to rise sharply due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States and NATO nations have spent billions of dollars moving weapons to the Ukrainians. NATO has started to bolster its military presence. And weapons sent to Ukraine will need to be replaced. A sign of the rise in spending is the $813 billion request for defense spending in the new U.S. budget proposal.

Global military expenditures topped $2 trillion for the first time in 2021. According to a new report from the independent think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the combined military spending of nations around the world totaled $2.1 trillion last year, up 0.7% from 2020. While nearly every country allocates some money to defense, only a few dozen relatively wealthy nations account for the vast majority of military spending.

Using data from the institute, 24/7 Wall St. identified the country with the highest military spending. Countries we considered were ranked based on military spending in 2021 (expressed in 2020 U.S. dollars). The 2021 uptick in global military spending is the continuation of a longer-term trend, as military spending has climbed every year since 2015. Countries that increased their spending the most last year include Finland, Sweden, Iran, Belgium and Japan.

Notably, the United States is among the minority of large countries where military spending fell in 2021. However, the decline in real spending in the United States was due entirely to inflation. In nominal terms, America’s military budget actually climbed by nearly 3% from 2020 to 2021.

The U.S. military budget remains the largest in the world by a wide margin, accounting for an estimated 38% of global spending. Over the past 10 years, the United States has sharply increased investments in military research and development, while reducing procurement spending. The shift suggests a strategy that relies more on new technologies than on investment in legacy systems.

These are the details on U.S. military spending:

  • Military expenditure in 2021: $801.0 billion
  • One-year change in military spending: −1.4%
  • Ten-year change in military spending: −6.1%
  • Military spending as a share of GDP in 2021: 3.5%


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