Special Report

Countries Spending the Most Defending Their Borders

World military spending reached an all-time high of $2.1 trillion in 2021, the seventh straight year that spending increased, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The world has no shortage of hot spots and border disputes. The five largest spenders — the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom, and Russia — accounted for 62% of global expenditure. But considering countries have different size borders, which spend the most per border mile?

To determine the nations spending the most to defend their borders, 24/7 Wall St. ranked countries by military expenditures per land border mile. 2021 military expenditures data is from the SIPRI and is expressed in constant (2020) U.S. dollars. Land border length came from the CIA World Factbook. Only 133 countries with land borders had military expenditure data. Population and land area data came from the World Bank.

The United States, with the world’s highest total military expenditure of $767.8 billion, and South Korea, which shares the world’s most tense border with North Korea, have the among the highest military expenditures per land border mile of any country on the list. (These are 40 countries spending the most on war.)

Speaking of the world’s hot spots, nations or regions involved in low-boil conflicts or shooting wars are on the list. These include the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where there is an ongoing dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. More broadly, Greece and Turkey may be members of NATO, but the long-time adversaries had a recent flare-up, accusing each other of violating each other’s air space. 

Israel spends almost $34 million per mile on its borders to maintain an uneasy peace with some of its Arab neighbors, and a hostile border with others. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s land border is only 310 mile long, as it is mostly an island. (Several island nations did not make the list for this reason.)

Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula, spends an eye-watering $208,382,426 per mile for its 54-mile border — the shortest on the list — with Saudi Arabia. Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been in conflict beginning in 2017 because the Saudis claimed Doha supported terrorism.

Many NATO members are on the list. They have been cajoled, and sometimes browbeaten. by U.S. presidents to follow the organization’s guidelines of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. One of those nations, Denmark, spends almost $59 million to protect its 87-mile border. 

Also on the list are China, Russia, and India, all of which face a daunting task of defending their extended borders. While neighboring Russia and China — each with almost 14,000 miles of border to defend — have experienced a rapprochement in recent years, border tensions between India and China have risen. India also continues to have sporadic conflicts with Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region. (This is the country with the largest military.)

Click here to see which countries are spending the most defending their borders
Click here to see our detailed methodology

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor:

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.