Special Report

10 Countries Spending the Most on the Military

4. Saudi Arabia
> Military expenditure: $62.8 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 9.3% (2nd highest)
> 1-yr. spending change: 14.3% (16th highest)
> Total arms imports: $1.5 billion (4th highest)
> Total arms exports: N/A

Situated in an increasingly unstable region, Saudi Arabia hiked its military budget by 14.3% in 2013. Saudi neighbors include Iraq and Yemen, which are currently in turmoil. Saudi Arabia has also had historically poor relations with another neighbor, Iran, which could become an even bigger threat if it acquires nuclear capabilities. The large increase in military outlays is likely a direct response to these threats. The House of Saud aims to replace its current 20-year old weapon stores, including a heavy investment in missile defense systems. Like many of the countries with the biggest military budgets, Saudi Arabia benefits from one of the world’s largest oil reserves. At 9.3%, the country’s spending as a percentage of GDP was second only to Oman, another oil-rich nation in the Middle East.

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3. Russia
> Military expenditure: $84.9 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 4.1% (10th highest)
> 1-yr. spending change: 4.8% (48th highest)
> Total arms imports: $148 million (33rd highest)
> Total arms exports: $8.3 billion (the highest)

Russia leads the rest of the world in military exports, with more than $8 billion worth last year, well above the U.S.’s $6.2 billion in exports. While total military spending in Russia remains a fraction of what it was in the late 1980s, it has been on the rise in recent years as a result of Russia’s involvement in various regional conflicts. With the more recent ongoing Crimean crisis, this spending trend may likely continue. The country’s military expenditure was roughly $85 billion last year compared to just $64.5 billion in 2009. Russia now spends 4.1% of its GDP on its military, exceeding that of the U.S. for the first time in over a decade. The dramatic increase is likely due in part to Russia’s stated plans to invest more than $700 billion to modernize its weapons system by 2020. According to some onlookers, making these improvements may be difficult given Russia’s low birth rates, poverty and lingering soviet-era corruption problems.

2. China 
> Military expenditure: $171.4 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.0% (45th highest)
> 1-yr. spending change: 7.4% (36th highest)
> Total arms imports: $1.5 billion (3rd highest)
> Total arms exports: $1.8 billion (3rd highest)

Military spending often mirrors economic growth, and this is especially true in China where military spending has increased in each of the past five years roughly in line with economic growth. Military expenditure grew 7.4% last year alone, far more than any other country in the region, and among the larger annual growths worldwide. The value of China’s military exports trails only the U.S. and Russia, at around $1.8 billion last year. Unlike most other countries, China imported nearly as much in military goods as it exported, at $1.5 billion last year. According to Dr. Perlo-Freeman, a combination of increased Chinese military spending and rising regional tensions have encouraged higher military expenditures among neighboring countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.

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1. United States
> Military expenditure: $618.7 billion
> Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 3.8% (14th highest)
> 1-yr. spending change: -7.8% (12th lowest)
> Total arms imports: $759 million (8th highest)
> Total arms exports: $6.2 billion (2nd highest)

The $619 billion military expenditure in the U.S. nearly outpaced the combined spending of every other country on this list in 2013. At the start of 2013, the U.S. had nearly 8,000 nuclear warheads in reserve. Since 2001, U.S. defense spending has risen from $287 billion to $530 billion. In recent years, however, U.S. military outlays fell from 4.8% of GDP in 2009 to 3.8% in 2013. Reduction in military expenditures was due to a greater emphasis on fiscal austerity and the winding down of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, military expenditure fell nearly 6% in 2012, followed by a 7.8% reduction in 2013. Despite efforts to curtail the size of the military, the U.S. supplied nearly $6.2 billion in arms to foreign allies, a figure second only to Russia. The U.S. was also a large arms importer, bringing in $759 million worth of arms, among the higher rates worldwide.

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