US Tops 2015 Military Spending at $596 Billion

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The United States spent $596 billion on its military last year, which is 2.4% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Number two China’s spend was not even close at $215 billion, or 7.4% of its GDP. The two led global spending of $1.676 trillion in 2015, 2.3% of worldwide GDP, which was up 1% in aggregate over the 2014 figure.

The distance between China and the next nations on the list was of similar magnitude of that between United States and the People’s Republic. At number three, Saudi Arabia spent $87.2 billion, which was an extraordinarily high 13.7% of GDP.

Following the top spenders, Russia spent $66.4 billion, 5.4% of its battered GDP, which has faltered under sanctions. The United Kingdom came in at $55.5 billion, a low 3.0% of GDP. And in sixth place was India, the second largest nation by population, at $51.3 billion, or 2.3% of its GDP.

Staff at the Stockholm Forum on Security and Development made two points:

A combination of high oil prices and new oil discoveries and exploitation has contributed to a surge in military spending in many countries around the world in the past decade. However, the crash in oil prices that started in 2014 has begun to reverse this trend in many oil revenue-dependent countries. Further cuts in spending are expected in 2016.

And:

Military spending in North America and Western and Central Europe has been decreasing since 2009, largely as a result of the global economic crisis, as well as the withdrawal of most US and allied troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. There were signs in 2015, however, that this decline was coming to an end.

US military spending was down by 2.4 per cent in 2015, a much slower rate of decline than in recent years. This was the result of measures passed by the US Congress to partially protect military spending from previously agreed budget deficit-reduction measures. US military spending is projected to remain roughly level in real terms in 2016.

As tension grows between Russia and Europe, and China against South Korea (with North Korea as the proxy) and Japan, the forecast for 2016 may be too low.