Special Report

Countries With the Fastest Growing and Shrinking Militaries

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5. Mali
> Military spending 1 yr. change: +18%
> 2016 military spending: $369.0 million
> Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
> Population: 17.6 million

Violent uprisings by various militant groups in recent years in northern Mali have led to instability throughout the country. The Mali government has relied since 2013 on France, its former colonial ruler, to help maintain order. The country is currently in a state of emergency that has been in effect since an Al-Qaeda affiliated group attacked a hotel in 2015, killing 20 people.

In response to these rising threats, the Mali government approved one of the largest increases in military expenditure of any country. The sub-Saharan nation spent $369 million on its military in 2016, more than most other countries in the region and 18% more than the year before.

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4. Philippines
> Military spending 1 yr. change: +20%
> 2016 military spending: $3.9 billion
> Region: Southeast Asia
> Population: 100.7 million

The Philippines spent $3.9 billion on defense in 2016, a 20% increase over 2015. The hike is part of an overall trend of increased military spending across Southeast Asia, where defense spending rose 5.1% last year. According to Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, military spending will likely continue to increase as insurgency, natural disaster, and numerous territorial disputes with neighboring countries demand greater resources. In addition, under the provisions of the 2012 Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act, the Pacific Island nation must steadily increase the size of its military.

While military spending accounts for roughly 1.3% of Philippines’ GDP, Lorenzana plans on dedicating some 2.4% of total GDP to defense in future budgets — roughly in line with the 2.3% average spending among all South Asian nations.

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3. Lithuania
> Military spending 1 yr. change: +35%
> 2016 military spending: $636.0 million
> Region: Eastern Europe
> Population: 2.9 million

Lithuania is one of many Central European countries to substantially increase military spending in 2016. Lithuania spent $636.0 million on defense in 2016, a 35% increase from the year prior. Like much of the Baltic region, the spending hike is partially a response to Russian military buildup, particularly since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia spent $69.2 billion on defense in 2016, a 5.6% increase from 2015 and an 87.0% increase from 2009. While Lithuania spends roughly 1.1% of GDP on defense, the country’s parliament has announced its intentions to increase defense spending beyond the 2% expected of NATO member countries in the near future. Russian military spending was 5.3% of its GDP in 2016, the seventh largest military budget on Earth.

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2. Botswana
> Military spending 1 yr. change: +40%
> 2016 military spending: $515.0 million
> Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
> Population: 2.3 million

Botswana is notable as one of Africa’s most stable countries with five decades of uninterrupted democracy. Despite the lack of armed conflict in its past, the country increased its military spending in 2016 more than any other country on the continent. The increase is part of a modernization effort by the Botswana Defence Force, which is set to procure an air defense missile system from France, jet fighters from South Korea, and other military hardware.

According to the Botswana newspaper Sunday Standard, experts believe the 40% increase in military spending is unwarranted given the low level of threat against the country. Other news outlets have also criticized the spending hike, accusing President Ian Khama of inciting an arms race in the region and growing the military to benefit family members through lucrative defense contracts.

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1. Latvia
> Military spending 1 yr. change: +44%
> 2016 military spending: $407.0 million
> Region: Eastern Europe
> Population: 2.0 million

Latvia spent $407.0 million on defense in 2016, a 44% increase from the year prior. The increase in military spending was part of a larger trend across Central Europe, likely in response to the Russian buildup of military strength and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Latvia plans to increase its military spending from roughly 1.1% of GDP to the 2.0% NATO recommended threshold by 2018. The three Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are expected to spend a combined $2.1 billion on defense by 2020, more than double what the Baltic countries spent in 2004, the year they joined NATO.