Mapped: The Countries With the Most Military Spending
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Mapped: The Countries With the Most Military Spending

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Mapped: The Countries With the Most Military Spending

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:

CountryMilitary Spending ('19)YoY % changeMilitary Spending as % of GDP ('19)
U.S. 🇺🇸$731.8B+5.3%3.4%
China 🇨🇳$261.1B+5.1%1.9%
India 🇮🇳$71.1B+6.8%2.4%
Russia 🇷🇺$65.1B+4.5%3.9%
Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦$61.2B-16.0%8.0%
France 🇫🇷$50.1B+1.6%1.9%
Germany 🇩🇪$49.3B+10.0%1.3%
UK 🇬🇧$48.7B0.0%1.7%
Japan 🇯🇵$47.6B-0.1%0.9%
South Korea 🇰🇷$43.9B+7.5%2.7%
Global Total$1.92T+3.6%2.2%

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?

Military Spending by GDP Share

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.

Country2019 Spending, US$B2019 Share of GDP
U.S.$731.753.4%
China$261.081.9%
India$71.132.4%
Russia$65.103.9%
Saudi Arabia$61.878.0%
France$50.121.9%
Germany$49.281.3%
UK$48.651.7%
Japan$47.610.9%
South Korea$43.892.7%
Italy$26.791.4%
Australia$25.911.9%
Canada$22.201.3%
Israel$20.475.3%
Turkey$20.452.7%
Spain$17.181.2%
Iran$12.622.3%
Netherlands$12.061.3%
Poland$11.902.0%
Singapore$11.213.2%
Taiwan$10.421.7%
Algeria$10.306.0%
Pakistan$10.264.0%
Colombia$10.083.2%
Kuwait$7.715.6%
Indonesia$7.670.7%
Iraq$7.603.5%
Thailand$7.321.3%
Norway$7.001.7%
Oman$6.738.8%
Mexico$6.540.5%
Sweden$5.921.1%
Greece$5.472.6%
Ukraine$5.233.4%
Switzerland$5.180.7%
Romania$4.952.0%
Belgium$4.820.9%
Denmark$4.561.3%
Portugal$4.511.9%
Bangladesh$4.361.3%
Finland$3.971.5%
Malaysia$3.771.0%
Egypt$3.741.2%
Morocco$3.723.1%
Philippines$3.471.0%
South Africa$3.471.0%
Austria$3.240.7%
Argentina$3.140.7%
New Zealand$2.931.5%
Czechia$2.911.2%
Brazil$2.731.5%
Peru$2.731.2%
Lebanon$2.524.2%
Bulgaria$2.133.2%
Jordan$2.034.7%
Hungary$1.901.2%
Slovakia$1.871.8%
Nigeria$1.860.5%
Azerbaijan$1.854.0%
Ecuador$1.772.3%
Kazakhstan$1.771.1%
Sri Lanka$1.671.9%
Angola$1.471.6%
Bahrain$1.413.7%
Uruguay$1.222.0%
Kenya$1.151.2%
Chile$1.151.8%
Serbia$1.142.2%
Ireland$1.110.3%
Lithuania$1.082.0%
Croatia$1.011.7%
Tunisia$1.002.6%
Tanzania$0.801.3%
Belarus$0.781.2%
Sudan$0.721.6%
Latvia$0.712.0%
Armenia$0.674.9%
Estonia$0.662.1%
Uganda$0.652.1%
Dominican Republic$0.620.7%
Cambodia$0.602.3%
Bolivia$0.601.4%
Slovenia$0.571.1%
Zimbabwe$0.550.7%
Ethiopia$0.550.6%
Côte d’Ivoire$0.541.1%
Botswana$0.522.8%
Mali$0.472.7%
Luxembourg$0.430.6%
Nepal$0.431.6%
Cameroon$0.421.1%
Paraguay$0.421.0%
Brunei$0.423.3%
Namibia$0.413.0%
Honduras$0.401.6%
Cyprus$0.401.6%
Burkina Faso$0.362.4%
DRC$0.350.7%
Senegal$0.351.5%
Guatemala$0.340.4%
El Salvador$0.321.2%
Georgia$0.322.0%
Republic of Congo$0.302.7%
Zambia$0.291.2%
Gabon$0.271.6%
Jamaica$0.271.6%
Chad$0.242.2%
Ghana$0.230.4%
Afghanistan$0.231.2%
Albania$0.201.3%
Guinea$0.202.0%
Bosnia-Herzegovina$0.180.9%
Niger$0.171.8%
Togo$0.173.1%
Trinidad & Tobago$0.170.7%
Mauritiana$0.162.8%
North Macedonia$0.151.2%
Mozambique$0.140.9%
Krygyzstan$0.121.5%
Guyana$0.121.7%
Rwanda$0.121.2%
Mongolia$0.100.7%
Montenegro$0.091.6%
eSwatini$0.091.8%
South Sudan$0.093.4%
Malta$0.800.6%
Fiji$0.081.6%
Nicaragua$0.080.7%
Papua New Guinea$0.080.4%
Madagascar$0.080.6%
Benin$0.070.7%
Malawi$0.070.9%
Kosovo$0.070.8%
Burundi$0.061.8%
Lesotho$0.041.5%
Moldova$0.040.4%
Timor-Leste$0.031.0%
Central African Republic$0.031.5%
Sierra Leone$0.030.7%
Seychelles$0.021.3%
Belize$0.021.2%
Mauritius$0.020.2%
Liberia$0.020.5%
Gambia$0.010.8%
Cape Verde$0.010.5%
Haiti$00.0%
Costa Rica$00.0%
Iceland$00.0%
Panama$00.0%
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Politics

Which Countries are the Most Polarized?

This chart plots polarization for various countries based on the Edelman Trust Institute’s annual survey of 32,000+ people.

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Which Countries are the Most Polarized?

How do you measure something that’s made headlines for half a decade but is still difficult to quantify? We’re talking about polarization.

Even within the social sciences, polarization covers everything from racial segregation, to labor skill levels, to class divide, to political ideology.

How Do You Quantify Polarization?

Edelman’s data on which countries are the most polarized comes from survey results asking respondents two very simple questions:

  • How divided is their country?
  • How entrenched is the divide?

The questions help bring to light the social issues a particular country is facing and the lack of consensus on those issues.

Plotted against each other, a chart emerges. A country in the top–right corner of the chart is “severely polarized.” Countries located closer to the lower–left are considered less polarized.

In the report, Edelman identifies four metrics to watch for and measure which help quantify polarization.

Economic AnxietiesWill my family be better off in five years?
Institutional ImbalanceGovernment is viewed as unethical and incompetent.
Class DividePeople with higher incomes have a higher trust in institutions.
Battle for TruthEcho chambers, and a low trust in media.

Following Edelman’s metrics, countries with economic uncertainty and inequality as well as institutional distrust are more likely to be polarized. Below, we look at key highlights from the chart.

Severely Polarized Countries

Despite being one of the largest economies in Latin America, Argentina is the most polarized country surveyed by a large margin. Foreign loan defaults, a high fiscal deficit, and now surging inflation have created a perfect storm in the country.

43% of the Argentinian respondents said they will be better off in five years, down 17 percentage points from last year.

Along with fiscal upheaval, Argentinians are also dealing with enduring corruption in the public sector and abrupt policy reversals between governments. Only 20% of those surveyed in Argentina said they trusted the government—the least of all surveyed countries.

Here are all six of the countries considered to be severely polarized:

    🇦🇷 Argentina
    🇨🇴 Colombia
    🇺🇸 United States
    🇿🇦 South Africa
    🇪🇸 Spain
    🇸🇪 Sweden

In the U.S., heightened political upheaval between Democrats and Republicans over the last few years has led to strengthening ideological stances and to an abundance of headlines about polarization. Only 42% of respondents in the country trust the government.

And in South Africa, persistent inequality and falling trust in the African National Congress also check off Edelman’s metrics. It’s also second after Argentina with the least trust in government (22%) per the survey.

Moderately Polarized Countries

The biggest cluster of 15 countries are in moderately polarized section of the chart, with all continents represented.

    🇧🇷 Brazil
    🇰🇷 South Korea
    🇲🇽 Mexico
    🇫🇷 France
    🇬🇧 United Kingdom
    🇯🇵 Japan
    🇳🇱 Netherlands
    🇮🇹 Italy
    🇩🇪 Germany
    🇳🇬 Nigeria
    🇹🇭 Thailand
    🇰🇪 Kenya
    🇨🇦 Canada
    🇦🇺 Australia
    🇮🇪 Ireland

Some are on the cusp of being severely polarized, including economic heavyweights like Japan, the UK, France, and Germany. On the other hand, smaller economies like Thailand, Kenya, and Nigeria, are doing comparatively better on the polarization chart.

Less Polarized Countries

Countries with fair economic outlook and high trust in institutions including China, Singapore, and India are in the bottom left sector of the chart.

    🇮🇩 Indonesia
    🇨🇳 China
    🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates
    🇸🇬 Singapore
    🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
    🇲🇾 Malaysia
    🇮🇳 India

It’s interesting to note that of the seven countries in that sector, three are not democracies. That said, there are also more developing countries on this list as well, which could also be a factor.

Looking Ahead

Edelman notes that polarization is both “cause and consequence of distrust,” creating a self-fulfilling cycle. Aside from the four metrics stated above, concerns about the erosion of civility and weakening social fabric also lead to polarization.

Edelman polarization quote

As global events unfold in 2023—including looming worries of a recession—it will be fascinating to see how countries might switch positions in the year to come.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer

Data note: Survey conducted: Nov 1 – Nov 28, 2022. Survey included 32,000+ respondents in 28 countries. Russia was omitted from this year’s survey. See page 2 of the report for more details.

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