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The Militarization of the Middle East in Numbers

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The Militarization of the Middle East in Numbers

The Militarization of the Middle East in Numbers

The global arms trade is huge.

While it’s hard to pin down an exact value of arms transfers, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the number was at least $76 billion in 2013, with the caveat that it is likely higher.

The volume of transfers have been trending upwards now for roughly 15 years now.

Volume of Arms Transfers
World Arms Trade
Courtesy of: SIPRI

But where are these arms going?

The answer is that they are increasingly going to militarize the Middle East, which has increased imports of arms by 61% in 2011-2015, compared to the previous five year period.

The Syrian Civil War now entering its sixth year, and it’s clear that conflict is stopping no time soon in the Middle East. As a result of this and the various proxy wars, complicated relationships, and a continuing threat from ISIS, neighboring countries in the region have loaded up on arms.

That’s why Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE have increased imports of arms by 275%, 279%, and 35% respectively compared to the 2006-2010 time period. Saudi Arabia is now the second largest importer of arms in the world.

Rounding out the Top 20 largest arms importers are other countries in the general region, such as the UAE, Turkey, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, India, and Iraq:

Largest arms importers
Courtesy of: SIPRI

How are these arms flowing to these countries?

Here’s a diagram showing the top three suppliers to each of the biggest arm importers:

Arms Flow Chart

Original graphics by: MEE and AFP

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Mapped: World’s Top 40 Largest Military Budgets

War in Europe has caused Ukraine’s military spend to jump up by 640%. How do the world’s largest military budgets compare?

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A map of the top 40 largest military budgets in the world in 2022.

Mapped: World’s Top 40 Largest Military Budgets

In the final year of World War II, the U.S. spent about 38% of its GDP on its military. When adjusted for inflation, the military budget over those four years of war came to a staggering $4.1 trillion in 2020 dollars.

Almost 80 years later, modern day military spending isn’t much of a far cry from World War II budgets. The top spenders have continued to increase their military capabilities, while war in Ukraine has caused countries in the region to re-evaluate their budgets as well.

In 2022, global military budgets hit an all-time high of $2.2 trillion, according to data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the eighth consecutive year of increase. This post looks at the top 40 largest military budgets in the world.

The Largest Military Budgets in 2022

The United States accounts for almost 40% of global military expenditures, with its 2022 spend coming to $877 billion.

Here are the top 40 largest military budgets in the world for 2022 in U.S. dollars:

RankCountryMilitary Budget (Billions)% of World
Military Spend
1๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ U.S.$876.939.0%
2๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China$292.013.0%
3๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia$86.43.9%
4๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India$81.43.6%
5๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia$75.03.3%
6๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง UK$68.53.1%
7๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany$55.82.5%
8๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France$53.62.4%
9๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea$46.42.1%
10๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan$46.02.1%
11๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine$44.02.0%
12๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy$33.51.5%
13๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia$32.31.4%
14๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada$26.91.2%
15๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel$23.41.0%
16๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain$20.30.9%
17๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil$20.20.9%
18๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland$16.60.7%
19๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands$15.60.7%
20๐Ÿ‡ถ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Qatar$15.40.7%
21๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan$12.50.6%
22๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore$11.70.5%
23๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Tรผrkiye$10.60.5%
24๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฐ Pakistan$10.30.5%
25๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia$9.90.4%
26๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Algeria$9.10.4%
27๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia$9.00.4%
28๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico$8.50.4%
29๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway$8.40.4%
30๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ผ Kuwait$8.20.4%
31๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece$8.10.4%
32๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden$7.70.3%
33๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium$6.90.3%
34๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท Iran$6.80.3%
35๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland$6.10.3%
36๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฒ Oman$5.80.3%
37๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand$5.70.3%
38๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile$5.60.2%
39๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark$5.50.2%
40๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania$5.20.2%

China, ranked second in absolute terms, accounts for another 13% of world military expenditure at $292 billion.

Russia, India and Saudi Arabia round out the top five biggest military budgets in 2022. Add in the UK to the mix (#6 rank), and these countries all had military expenditures that made up at least 3% of global spend.

Comparatively, the lowest budgets on the top 40 ranged include Romania at $5.2 billion, Denmark at $5.5 billion, and Chile at $5.6 billion. They each account for just 0.2% of the world’s military budgets in 2022, and of course there are many countries with even smaller spends.

Largest Military Budget Increases in 2022

Russia’s position as the third-largest military spender is a recent development, as the country’s military spend had a 9% increase between 2021 and 2022, according to SIPRI estimates.

On the other side of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was the top 40 military budget with the largest annual increase in 2022, surging nearly six and a half times above its 2021 expenditures.

Country% Change
(2021-2022)
Rank Change
(2021-2022)
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine640%+25
๐Ÿ‡ถ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Qatar27%+2
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia16%+3
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium13%0
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands12%0
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden12%-1
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland11%0
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia9.2%+2
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark8.8%+3
๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain7.3%-1
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway6.2%0
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India6.0%-1
๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan5.9%-1
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท Iran4.6%+5
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China4.2%0
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง UK3.7%-2
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada3.0%-1
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore2.8%+1
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany2.3%0
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia1.3%0
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia1.1%-1
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ U.S.0.7%0
๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France0.6%-2
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece0.6%-1
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland0.4%-1
๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan0.4%-1
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia0.3%-1
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฐ Pakistan-2.0%-3
๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea-2.5%+1
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania-2.6%+1
๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฒ Oman-3.0%+1
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Algeria-3.7%-1
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel-4.2%-1
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy-4.5%-1
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile-6.2%-3
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil-7.9%-1
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico-9.7%0
๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ผ Kuwait-11%-4
๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand-11%-5
๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Tรผrkiye-26%-6

Ukraine’s dramatic increase represents the highest single-year jump ever recorded by SIPRI, painting a vivid before-and-after picture of a nation engaged in conflict.

Although no other country comes close in matching Ukraine’s surge in defense spending, Qatar saw a substantial increase of 27% over the last year, marking a continuing trend over the last decade of significantly bolstering its military.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia, along with four European nations (Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Poland), have registered year-over-year changes of over 10%.

On the flipside, 13 of the nations with the largest military budgets decreased spend from 2021, including top 15 spenders such as South Korea, Italy, and Israel.

The largest drop was seen by Tรผrkiye, with an estimated 26% reduction in military budget. This drop may be linked to Tรผrkiye’s inflation problem, which saw prices rise 72.3% in 2022โ€”effectively decreasing the purchasing power of their currency in relative terms to other nations.

The Specter of War in Europe

With an ongoing conflict in the region and large financial powerhouses, its no surprise that eight of the top 10 countries with the most significant increases in military spending are located in Europe.

Consequently, European military budgets have reached levels not witnessed since the end of the Cold War.

And amid escalating geopolitical concerns, countries in Asia such as India, Japan, and China have also ramped up their defense spending. This is an indication of simmering global flashpoints such as India and Chinaโ€™s border skirmishes, the longstanding South China Sea territorial conflict, and concerns surrounding Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Data note: SIPRIโ€™s military expenditure data collection began in 1949, thus its records do not account for all expenditure that occurred during both World Wars.

Please see SIPRI’s methodologies page for more details on how they collect their data and create estimates.

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