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Putting America’s Defense Spending into Perspective

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Putting America's Defense Spending into Perspective

Putting America’s Defense Spending into Perspective

Wouldn’t it be a strange world to live in if 50% of military spending was paid for by just 5% of the population?

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Every year, the United States government spends the equivalent of $3,300 for each working citizen on its military budget. In aggregate, this grand total of $610 billion in defense spending amounts to about half of the dollars globally spent on the military.

With $216 billion spent per year, China has the next largest budget by far. But, to get to a number even close to U.S. spending, the military budgets of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, United Kingdom, and France would have to be added together.

From another perspective, the amount of annual defense spending per working person in the U.S. is higher than the income per capita of 70 countries, including places such as Morocco, Nigeria, Nicaragua, India, and Ukraine.

This means that if somehow the people of Nicaragua were taxed 100% with all money going to defense, it would only amount to a budget 1.8% of the size of America’s.

Original graphic by: BofAML, Business Insider

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Which Countries Meet NATO’s Spending Target?

In 2023, only 11 member countries reached NATO’s target of spending 2% of their country’s GDP on defense.

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Bar chart showing Nato defense spending by country

Which Countries Meet NATO’s Spending Target?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2006, NATO defense ministers agreed that each member country would commit a minimum of 2% of its GDP to defense spending.

This graphic breaks down which members are keeping the agreement, based on data from NATO as of July 2023.

Poland Leads Ahead of the U.S.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military alliance comprising 31 countries. Its primary purpose is to facilitate cooperation among member nations and ensure mutual defense and security.

In 2023, only 11 member countries were on track to meet NATO’s target of spending 2% of their country’s GDP on defense.

The U.S. accounted for 68% of the total defense expenditures by NATO countries, or $860 billion. This amount is over 10 times more than the second-placed country, Germany, if measured in absolute terms.

However, compared to the country’s GDP, the U.S. appears in second place with spending of 3.5% of GDP, behind Poland’s defense spending of $29.1 billion or 3.9% of GDP.

CountryDefense spending in 2023E (% of GDP)
🇵🇱 Poland*3.9
🇺🇸 United States3.5
🇬🇷 Greece3.0
🇪🇪 Estonia2.7
🇱🇹 Lithuania*2.5
🇫🇮 Finland2.5
🇷🇴 Romania*2.4
🇭🇺 Hungary2.4
🇱🇻 Latvia*2.3
🇬🇧 United Kingdom2.1
🇸🇰 Slovak Republic2.0
🇫🇷 France1.9
🇲🇪 Montenegro1.9
🇲🇰 North Macedonia1.9
🇧🇬 Bulgaria1.8
🇭🇷 Croatia1.8
🇦🇱 Albania1.8
🇳🇱 Netherlands1.7
🇳🇴 Norway1.7
🇩🇰 Denmark1.7
🇩🇪 Germany1.6
🇨🇿 Czechia1.5
🇵🇹 Portugal1.5
🇮🇹 Italy1.5
🇨🇦 Canada1.4
🇸🇮 Slovenia1.4
🇹🇷 Turkiye1.3
🇪🇸 Spain1.3
🇧🇪 Belgium1.1
🇱🇺 Luxembourg0.7

Situated in a crucial geopolitical location in Central Europe, Poland has increased its military spending in recent years, primarily due to concerns about escalating instability along the country’s eastern border with Belarus. According to polls, two-thirds of Poles hold a favorable opinion regarding NATO’s activities.

On the other hand, significant economic and military powers are among the members that are falling short. The list includes France (1.9%), Italy (1.5%), Canada (1.4%), and Germany (1.6%).

Despite being on the 2% list, the U.K. reduced the percentage spent in recent years from 2.14% in 2014 to an estimated 2.07% in 2023.

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