Mapped: The Countries With the Most Military Spending
Whether it’s fight or flight, there’s a natural tendency of humans to want to protect themselves.
In this day and age, this base instinct takes the form of a nation’s expenditures on armies and armaments, towards an end goal of global security and peacekeeping.
This graphic from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) delves into the top military spenders as of 2019.
Top 10 Biggest Military Spenders
Let’s first take a look at the overall growth trends. The world’s military spending grew by 3.6% year-over-year (YoY)—currently the highest rate this decade—to surpass $1.9 trillion in 2019.
While just 10 countries are responsible for nearly 75% of this amount, the U.S. alone made up the lion’s share with 38% of the global total. In fact, its YoY rise in spending alone of $49.2 billion rivals Germany’s entire spending for the same year.
Naturally, many questions rise about where this money goes, including the inevitable surplus of military equipment, from night vision goggles to armored vehicles, that trickles down to law enforcement around the nation.
Here’s how world’s top 10 military spenders compare against each other:
|Country||Military Spending ('19)||YoY % change||Military Spending as % of GDP ('19)|
|Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦||$61.2B||-16.0%||8.0%|
|South Korea 🇰🇷||$43.9B||+7.5%||2.7%|
China and India, currently embroiled in a border dispute, have upped the ante for military spending in Asia. India is also involved in clashes with its neighbor Pakistan for territorial claim over Kashmir—one of the most contested borders in the world.
India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending.
—Siemon T. Wezeman, SIPRI Senior Researcher
Germany leads among the top spenders in terms of highest YoY military spending increases. According to SIPRI, this is a preemptive measure in the face of perceived growing Russian threats.
These concerns may not be unfounded, considering that Russia comes in fourth for defense expenditures on the global stage—and budgets more towards military spending than any country in Europe, at 3.9% of its total GDP.
Military Spending as a Share of GDP
Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s clear that some nations place a higher value on defense than others. A country’s military expenses as a share of GDP is the most straightforward expression of this.
How do the biggest spenders change when this measure is taken into consideration?
Eight of the 15 countries with the highest military spending as a percentage of GDP are concentrated in the Middle East, with an average allocation of 4.5% of a nation’s GDP.
It’s worth noting that data is missing for various countries in the Middle East, such as Yemen, which has been mired in a civil war since 2011. While SIPRI estimates that combined military spending in the region fell by 7.5% in 2019, these significant data gaps mean that such estimates may not in fact line up with the reality.
Explore the full data set of all available countries below.
|Country||2019 Spending, US$B||2019 Share of GDP|
|Republic of Congo||$0.30||2.7%|
|Trinidad & Tobago||$0.17||0.7%|
|Papua New Guinea||$0.08||0.4%|
|Central African Republic||$0.03||1.5%|
Mapped: The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State
At the national level, Canada and China are top U.S. trading partners. While this generally extends to the state level, there are some surprises too.
The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State
The U.S. is highly dependent—perhaps unsurprisingly—on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.
However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. This map from HowMuch.net uses flags to show which country each U.S. state is importing the most from. Below, there is an additional graphic showing where each state is exporting the highest amount of goods and services to.
Who are the States Importing From?
The U.S. has a few natural and obvious trading partners, whether due to geographical closeness or strong economic ties.
The obvious candidates for top trading partners have already been mentioned, Canada and Mexico—and these two do show up at the state level as well. For example, Michigan gets 40.9% of its imports from Mexico, and Montana receives a whopping 87% of its imports from Canada.
Some other interesting trade partnerships stand out, like the Carolinas and Germany. Trade ties between Hawaii and Japan also make sense for historic reasons.
|State||Top Country||Total State Import (Millions USD)||Share of Total State Imports|
|Alaska||🇰🇷 South Korea||$836||35.0%|
|District of Columbia||🇨🇦 Canada||$74||13.7%|
|New Hampshire||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,394||20.1%|
|New Jersey||🇨🇳 China||$14,302||12.4%|
|New Mexico||🇨🇳 China||$1,493||32.6%|
|New York||🇨🇭 Switzerland||$33,126||21.5%|
|North Carolina||🇩🇪 Germany||$9,208||15.1%|
|North Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,781||62.3%|
|Puerto Rico||🇮🇪 Ireland||$9,062||42.7%|
|Rhode Island||🇩🇪 Germany||$1,525||17.3%|
|South Carolina||🇩🇪 Germany||$6,220||15.5%|
|South Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$428||33.9%|
|Virgin Islands||🇵🇹 Portugal||$174||27.7%|
|West Virginia||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,025||35.2%|
However, one country in particular stands out on this map—China.
While the USMCA trade agreement has created an easy gateway for necessary goods and services to flow across North America, no country—not even the U.S.—can escape the need for mass imports from the world’s top exporter.
China and the U.S. have an imbalanced trade relationship, with China buying much fewer goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from them. In fact, China’s monthly trade surplus with the country sat at $31.8 billion as of May 2021.
Who are the States Exporting to?
After looking at the top import partners by state, let’s dive in to where the U.S. states are exporting the most.
One thing that is noticeable is that China shows up much less on this map, further exemplifying the trade imbalance. In other words, while many states’ top import partner is China, they are not reciprocating as the country’s top export partner.
The only states that export their largest shares to China are:
- Oregon – 38.1%
- Alaska – 25.5%
- Washington – 22.1%
- Alabama – 18.1%
- Louisiana – 18.1%
The majority are exporting to their North American neighbors. For example, North Dakota sends 84.6% of its exports just across the northern border.
|State||Top Country||Total State Export (Millions USD)||Share of total State Exports|
|New Hampshire||🇩🇪 Germany||$751||13.8%|
|New Jersey||🇨🇦 Canada||$7,229||19.0%|
|New Mexico||🇲🇽 Mexico||$2,197||59.5%|
|New York||🇨🇦 Canada||$13,773||22.3%|
|North Carolina||🇨🇦 Canada||$5,881||20.7%|
|North Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$4,388||84.6%|
|Puerto Rico||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$2,889||17.2%|
|Rhode Island||🇨🇦 Canada||$410||17.1%|
|South Carolina||🇩🇪 Germany||$4,082||13.5%|
|South Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$524||38.0%|
|Utah||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$8,906||50.3%|
|Virgin Islands||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$90||15.2%|
|West Virginia||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,283||28.1%|
Trade Going Forward
The trade war that started during the tenure of former U.S. president Donald Trump is still ongoing and tariffs set by the U.S. are not expected to be lifted by president Joe Biden, as tensions have expanded beyond just trade issues.
These tariffs, however, have not helped to rectify the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. The states are still extremely reliant on imports from China, and it is not a reciprocal relationship.
Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America
There are over 18 million living veterans in the U.S., but how many are ultra wealthy? This visual ranks the richest veterans in America.
Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America
The U.S is home to 724 billionaires, many of whom have taken on immense risks in the financial world. 16 of these wealthy individuals have also taken on the risks that come with serving in the U.S. military.
These veteran billionaires are worth a collective $81.4 billion and have served in posts ranging from Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to infantrymen in the Second World War. This visual, using data from Forbes, ranks the richest living American veterans.
This visual categorizes the individuals by either the military branch or war served in depending on what was applicable or determinable.
I Want You for the U.S. Army
According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, there are around 18 million veterans in the U.S. Of these 18 million, less than 0.01% can claim the title of billionaire.
|Name||Net Worth (Billions, USD)||Industry||War / Unit Served|
|Donald Bren||$15.3||Real Estate||Marine Corps|
|Edward Johnson III||$10.3||Finance & Investments||Army|
|Ralph Lauren||$7.1||Fashion & Retail||Army|
|Richard Kinder||$7.0||Energy||Vietnam War|
|Charles Dolan & family||$6.1||Media & Entertainment||WWII, Airforce|
|Fred Smith||$5.7||Logistics||Vietnam War, Marine Corps|
|Charles B. Johnson||$4.9||Finance & Investments||Army|
|Ted Lerner & family||$4.8||Real Estate||WWII|
|Julian Robertson Jr.||$4.5||Finance & Investments||Navy|
|John Paul DeJoria||$2.7||Fashion & Retail||Navy|
|H. Ross Perot Jr.||$2.7||Real Estate||Airforce|
|Bob Parsons||$2.2||Technology||Vietnam War, Marine Corps|
|David H. Murdock||$2.1||Food & Beverage||WWII|
|S. Daniel Abraham||$2.0||Food & Beverage||WWII, Army|
|Charlie Munger||$2.0||Finance & Investments||WWII, Army Air Corps|
|George Joseph||$2.0||Finance & Investments||WWII|
Six of the above veteran billionaires served in WWII. They are some of the last surviving veterans of the historic war which was fought by 16 million Americans—today, only around 325,000 WWII veterans are still alive.
George Joseph, of Mercury Insurance Group, piloted a B17 Bomber plane in WWII, and completed around 50 missions. Warren Buffett’s business partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, served in the Army Air Corps in the early 1940s.
Richard Kinder (Kinder Morgan Inc.), Fred Smith (FedEx), and H. Ross Perot Jr. (Hillwood Investment Properties) each served in the Vietnam war.
One notable figure, Ralph Lauren, whose name is synonymous with his clothing products, served in the Army branch for two years in the early 1960s.
Taking on Financial Risk
Billionaire wealth continues to grow in America. Most of these veteran billionaires saw their net worths increase from 2020 to 2021, as, typically, wealth begets wealth. Here’s a look at the changes in net worth of the top five richest veterans who experienced increases:
- Edward Johnson III: +$4.9 Billion
- Ralph Lauren: +$1.4 Billion
- Richard Kinder: +$1.8 Billion
- Charles Dolan & Family: +$1.5 Billion
- Fred Smith: +$3.0 Billion
The majority of these veteran billionaires are in the finance industry and some are tied to well-known companies, but they didn’t always have billions on hand to help them exponentially grow their fortunes.
David Murdock was a high school dropout, and after serving in WWII, had no money to his name. He took over a failing company called Dole, and eventually gained the moniker of ‘pineapple king’ after reviving the business.
S. Daniel Abraham, who was an infantryman in WWII, went on to found Thompson Medical. Their main product was Slimfast, which he later sold to Unilever for $2.3 billion in cash in the early 2000s.
Bob Parsons, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, started out his professional career as a CPA. He later founded the enormous domain giant, Go Daddy. He has claimed that his time in the military helped him succeed in business.
Peace and Prosperity
We currently live in one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in history, with wars like WWII feeling to many like a story from the past — but for others these conflicts were defining moments for their generation.
While many veterans struggle to readjust to civilian life, on average pre-9/11 veterans have reported fewer difficulties compared to post-9/11 veterans, and some have even managed to reach the highest levels of financial success.
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