Mapped: The World's Top Countries for Military Spending
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Mapped: The World’s Top Countries for Military Spending

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Mapped The World's Top Military Spenders in 2020

Mapped: The World’s Top Countries for Military Spending

By practically any measure, the world today is more peaceful and less war-torn on a global scale, relative to the past.

For instance, declarations of war between nations and soldier casualties have both dropped drastically since the 20th century. Yet, military spending has not followed this trend.

The Top 10 Military Spenders

According to SIPRI, global military spend reached almost $2 trillion in 2020. The top 10 countries represent roughly 75% of this figure, and have increased their spending by $51 billion since the year prior.

Here’s how the worlds top 10 military spenders compare to each other:

RankCountryMilitary Spend 2020 ($B)% ChangeMilitary Spend 2019 ($B)
#1🇺🇸 United States $778.0+6.2%$732.0
#2🇨🇳 China$252.0-3.4%$261.0
#3🇮🇳 India$72.9+2.5%$71.1
#4🇷🇺 Russia$61.7-5.2%$65.1
#5🇬🇧 United Kingdom$59.2+21.5%$48.7
#6🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$57.5-7.1%$61.9
#7🇩🇪 Germany$52.8+7.1%$61.9
#8🇫🇷 France$52.7+5.1%$50.1
#9🇯🇵 Japan$49.1+3.1%$47.6
#10🇰🇷 South Korea$45.7+4.1%$43.9
Total$1,481.6+3.5%$1,430.7

The U.S. isn’t labeled as a global superpower for nothing. The country is by far the largest military spender, and its $778 billion budget trumps the remainder of the list’s collective $703.6 billion. On its own, the U.S. represents just under 40% of global military spending.

This year, Saudi Arabia has lost out on a top five seat to the UK, after a 7.1% decline in spending compared to a 21.5% increase for the UK.

Military Spend as a Percentage of GDP

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP can be used to compare military spending relative to the size of a country’s economy.

Military Spend as a Share of GDP

Click here to view a high-resolution version of this image.

When looking at things this way, many of the top spenders above do not appear. This may be an indication of their economic prowess or a demonstration that the money might be used for other vital areas such as education, healthcare, or infrastructure.

RankCountryRegionSpend as a % of GDP (2020)
#1🇴🇲 OmanMiddle East11.0%
#2🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaMiddle East8.4%
#3🇩🇿 AlgeriaNorth Africa6.7%
#4🇰🇼 KuwaitMiddle East6.5%
#5🇮🇱 IsraelMiddle East5.6%
#6🇷🇺 RussiaEurope/Asia4.3%
#7🇲🇦 MoroccoNorth Africa4.3%
#8🇮🇶 IraqMiddle East4.1%
#9🇺🇦 UkraineEurope4.1%
#10🇵🇰 PakistanSouth Asia4.0%

It’s pretty rare for countries to reach double digits for military spending as a percentage of GDP. In this case, Oman is an outlier, as the Middle Eastern country’s spending relative to GDP grew from 8.8% last year, to 11% in 2020.

Many of the countries with the highest military spending to GDP are located in the Middle East—a reflection of the escalating conflicts that have persisted in the region for well over two decades.

It’s worth noting that some data for the Middle Eastern region are estimates, due to the aforementioned regional instability.

More Spending to Come?

Global military spending figures are at a 32-year high, despite the pandemic’s effect on shrinking economic output.

World Military Spend 1988-2020

Although a major war hasn’t occurred in some time, it’s not to say the geopolitical mood hasn’t been tense.

The last 12 months or so have witnessed some nail-biting moments including:

  • Border disputes between China and India
  • Heightening tensions between China and Taiwan
  • Russia’s military presence in eastern Ukraine
  • The hacking of SolarWinds, a Texas-based company, by Russia
  • The ongoing Yemen crisis
  • An Israel-Iran feud

Will 2021 extend the trend of peace, or will rising military spending mean even higher tensions?

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Politics

Map Explainer: Key Facts About Afghanistan

This map explainer looks at Afghanistan from a structural point of view, delving into geography and population patterns.

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afghanistan map explainer

Map Explainer: Key Facts About Afghanistan

The country of Afghanistan has a long and complicated history of domination by foreign powers and conflict between factions within the country.

While Afghanistan is well covered in headlines and news stories, the lion’s share of this coverage is directly related to conflict. As a result, Afghanistan is viewed by many in Western countries as a war-torn desert, with conflict, ideology, and geopolitical power obscuring more practical information about the country and its people.

In the Afghanistan map graphic above, we step back and examine Afghanistan from a structural point of view. How does its unique landscape influence population patterns? How does this geography influence the economy and relationships with neighboring nations? Let’s dive in.

Mountain High, Valley Low

Afghanistan’s rugged landscape is defined by towering snow-capped mountains, fertile valleys, and expansive deserts.

First, the country has a wide variety of climate extremes. There is more than 100ºC (180ºF) separating the record high and low temperatures.

The extremes don’t stop at temperature though. Afghanistan has the sixth-highest elevation span in the world, with 7,234m (23,734 ft) between its highest and lowest point. Afghanistan is one of 44 landlocked nations in the world, which helps explain why its lowest point is so much higher than sea level.

For those living in North America, the country’s terrain has been compared to Colorado, with Kabul sharing similarities with Denver.

Where Do People Live in Afghanistan?

Settlement patterns in Afghanistan are similar to other countries in the region; people cluster where there is access to fresh water.

As the cartogram below demonstrates, a large portion of the country’s population is located around Kabul, and the region adjacent to the Kabul River.

afghanistan gridded population cartogram

Source

The southwestern province of Nimruz is the most sparsely populated area in the country. The Wakhan Corridor—which connects Afghanistan to China—is also very sparsely populated, with about 14,000 total residents.

Key Facts About Afghanistan’s Demographics

Afghanistan has a very youthful population. The country’s median age of 19 years is one of the youngest in the world, and is low compared to its neighbors Pakistan (24) and Iran (30).

afghanistan demographic population pyramid

Islam is the official state religion of Afghanistan. 99.7% of the Afghan population are Muslim, one of the highest proportions of the 49 Muslim-majority countries.

So far in 2021, the OCHA estimates that 550,000 people in Afghanistan are “internally displaced” due to conflict, and this number may rise still as new data tracks the final days of the Taliban’s takeover of the country. The majority of those displaced persons are children.

Paving the Way

The Ring Road connecting Afghanistan’s major cities began in the 1960s but was soon cut short by war. After the U.S. took control in 2001, new road construction began in earnest.

Between 2002 and 2016, USAID and the Department of Defense (DoD) spent approximately $2.8 billion building and maintaining Afghanistan’s road infrastructure. This number doesn’t include additional investment from other sources that poured in to improve the country’s road network.

The result is a more comprehensive road network, but one that is difficult to maintain. A 2016 report found collapsed bridges and sections of road around the country that were washed out.

Resources and Relationships

Afghanistan is a critical source of fresh water for the arid region. Several major regional rivers flow from the country’s mountainous eastern provinces into neighboring countries, so any new irrigation schemes and dam infrastructure will come with a geopolitical price tag as well.

Already in the recent past, tensions have increased with Iran and Pakistan over the flow of water crossing the border.

Outside countries are also very interested in Afghanistan’s rich mineral resources. Decades of near-continuous conflict have made mining a tough proposition in the country, but with growing demand for resources such as lithium and rare earths, that may soon change.

afghanistan mineral production potential

Source

Afghanistan is estimated to have over $1 trillion of untapped mineral reserves, and outside interests are taking notice.

China said it was ready for “friendly and cooperative relations” with the new Taliban regime, and it’s possible that investment from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) may step in to fill the vacuum left by departing Western powers.

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Politics

Ranked: America’s Most Searched and Visited News Sites by State

American states have some key differences for their favorite news sites. Here’s how they rank by monthly visitors and state popularity.

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Ranked: America’s Most Searched News Sites by State

America is known to have significant distinctions at the state-by-state level, and data suggests this trend extends to popular news sources. To learn more, this infographic from SEMRush ranks U.S. news websites by search volume and popularity across U.S. states.

Here’s how the top 15 news sites compare when ranked by monthly visitors, as well as the number of states the news source is most searched for in:

 News SiteMonthly VisitorsState Search PopularityTop Metro Area
1Yahoo! News175 million12Eureka, California (CA)
2Google News 150 million3Eureka, California (CA)
3Huff Post110 million1Eureka, California (CA)
4CNN95 million7Bend, Oregon (OR)
5The New York Times70 million1Charlottesville, Virginia (VA)
6Fox News65 million11Glendive, Montana (MT)
7NBC News63 million3Charlottesville, Virginia (VA)
8MailOnline53 million1West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce, Florida (FL)
9The Washington Post47 million1Washington, DC and Hagerstown, Maryland (MD)
10The Guardian42 million1Juneau, Alaska (AK)
11The Wall Street Journal40 million1Charlottesville, Virginia (VA)
12ABC News36 million5Columbia and Jefferson City, Missouri (MO)
13BBC News35 million2Eureka, California (CA)
14USA Today34 million10Wausau and Rhinelander, Wisconsin (WI)
15Los Angeles Times32 million1Palm Springs, California (CA)

Political affiliation plays a large role in determining each state’s favored news sites. Blue states lean towards Google News and CNN, while red states overwhelmingly choose Fox News.

The Most Popular News Sites

Yahoo News is the most popular news website in America, bringing in a massive 175 million monthly visitors. In addition, they’re the most searched for news site in 12 states—the highest of any website. The company’s history has been a roller coaster ride and at different times Yahoo intended to acquire Google and Facebook. Both companies went on to be worth over $1 trillion each, while Yahoo shrank some 90% from when it was once worth $125 billion.

The New York Times has 60 million monthly visitors, but in recent years, has pivoted towards the coveted and trending paid subscription model. This decision is paying off well, as the site now has 6.1 million paid subscribers—more than any of its competitors. Consequently, the New York Times’ share price hit a record high in December 2020.

HuffPost, and their audience of 110 million, were bought by BuzzFeed from Verizon in November of 2020. The two organizations have some history together, as BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti was also one of the early founders of HuffPost.

CNN is seeing a fall in ratings ever since Donald Trump left office. By some measures has witnessed a 36% decline in primetime viewers in the new year.

Google News experiences 125 million visitors a month, ranking second overall. That said, they stand tall relative to their competitors by overall visits to their main site. Here, Google hits 92.5 billion monthly visits, while Yahoo experiences a more modest 3.8 billion. Unlike legacy media news companies, Google has managed to increase their market share of U.S. advertising revenues, due to more ads going digital.

The Modern News Landscape

Overall, the modern news industry has been a tough landscape to operate in. Here are some of the reasons why:

First, the internet has removed barriers to where people obtain information, and revenue streams have been disrupted in the process. The advertising business model of news organizations is cutthroat to compete in, and there has been plenty of consolidation and layoffs.

Lastly, trust in traditional news and media organizations has been declining amongst Americans, from nearly 60% to 46% since 2019.

YearA lot of Trust (%)Some Trust (%)Very Little/ No Trust (%)
1994353727
1996363924
1998344025
2000364023
2002354321
2004304029
2006314028
2008244331
2010224136
2012213938
2014184239
2016213840
2018203445
2020183349

To add to this, on a global basis, the U.S. ranks well below most major countries based on trust in news media.

Some organizations like The Washington Post and The New York Times have opted out of the advertising model, moving towards the direction of premium subscriptions. But only 20% of the Americans pay for their news, which could lead to stiff competition down the road.

The Future Of News

There are serious concerns about the future of news in the era of spreading misinformation. Up to 43% of Americans say the media are doing a very “poor/poor job” in supporting democracy. But despite this waning trust, 84% of Americans view news media as “critical” or “very important”.

What will the future of media look like throughout the 21st century and how will this impact the most popular news sites of today?

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