Special Report

Countries Spending the Most on War

Source: 대한민국 국군 Republic of Korea Armed Forces / Wikimedia Commons

10. South Korea
> 2018 military spending: $43.1 billion
> Military spending change, 2009-2018: +28%
> Expenditure as pct. Of GDP: 2.6%
> Military spending per capita: $837

Still technically at war with its neighbor to the North, South Korea maintains a well-funded military in large part due to the ongoing tensions between the two nations.

South Korea requires men to serve in the armed forces for at least 21 months. The country spent $43.1 billion on its military in 2018, a 5.1% increase compared to 2017, the largest single-year increase there since 2005. North Korean military activity, such as nuclear and ballistic missile testing displays, has been on the rise in recent years following Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power. In April 2019, North Korea announced it had test-launched a currently unknown new weapon it described as a “tactical guided weapon.”

Source: Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

9. Japan
> 2018 military spending: $46.6 billion
> Military spending change, 2009-2018: +2%
> Expenditure as pct. Of GDP: 0.9%
> Military spending per capita: $368

Japan’s more than $46.6 billion military budget in 2018 accounted for less than 1% of its GDP that year. It is the only nation among the 25 largest military spenders that spends less than 1% of GDP on its military. Still, Japan is the third largest military spender in Asia, behind China and India. Japan is a close military ally of the United States and hosts several U.S. military bases. The U.S. base in Okinawa, however, is a source of contention between the two countries.

Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

8. Germany
> 2018 military spending: $49.5 billion
> Military spending change, 2009-2018: +9%
> Expenditure as pct. Of GDP: 1.2%
> Military spending per capita: $599

Though Germany is Europe’s largest economy, it ranks behind countries like France and the U.K. in overall military spending. Germany spends 1.2% of its GDP on its armed forces, one of the lowest percentages among countries spending the most on their militaries. For context, France spends 2.3% of its GDP on the military, nearly double what Germany spends.

Source: Scott Nelson / Getty Images

7. United Kingdom
> 2018 military spending: $50.0 billion
> Military spending change, 2009-2018: -17%
> Expenditure as pct. Of GDP: 1.8%
> Military spending per capita: $757

As a world leader and a key member of NATO, the U.K. military plays a crucial role in the transatlantic alliance. During the first stages of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.K. was a major contributor of forces. In the past decade, as its involvement in those wars has ended, British military spending has declined by 17%. With $50 billion in total military spending in 2018, the U.K. still has the second largest military budget in Europe.

Source: Epsilon / Getty Images

6. Russian Federation
> 2018 military spending: $61.4 billion
> Military spending change, 2009-2018: +27%
> Expenditure as pct. Of GDP: 3.9%
> Military spending per capita: $425

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in 2011 a plan to spend over 20 trillion rubles — roughly $360 billion — to revamp Russia’s military. Over the past two years, however, Russian arms spending has dropped sharply largely because of economic difficulties in the country. Despite the decline, Russia’s military spending is still up by 27% compared to 2009. Russia was involved, either directly or indirectly, in several armed conflicts over the last few years, including in the Crimean Peninsula.