Special Report

Nations Ramping Up Military Spending the Most

The ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia and growing insurgent violence in Africa have led numerous counties to boost their firepower significantly in recent years, increasing their budgets for weaponry, soldiers’ salaries, logistical support, and other key military expenses. (See how Russian and Ukrainian military spending compares to the rest of the world.) 

To determine the countries whose military expenditures increased the most in the five-year period between 2017 and 2021, 24/7 Tempo reviewed historical data on military spending from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Data is in constant 2021 dollars. Data on military expenditure as percentage of government spending also came from SIPRI. Supplemental data on total population as of 2021 came from the World Bank.

Out of the 25 countries with the fastest-growing military expenditures, nine are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. These countries are boosting their military spending amid increasing Russian aggression against NATO expansion. Though not yet a NATO member, Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and has also been arming-up since 2017. 

Ukraine, a non-NATO member that is currently fighting Russia’s direct military aggression, increased its defense spending by 84%, to $5.9 billion in 2021 compared to 2017. This is on top of the nearly $12 billion the U.S. has provided in military assistance to Ukraine since 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Seven of the countries with the fastest growing military budgets are in the vast Sub-Saharan region of Africa, including the continent’s largest economy and most populous country, Nigeria. Parts of this region are confronting some of the world’s most violent extremist activities. 

Four of the 25 countries on this list have increased their military budgets by more than 3 percentage points relative to their total annual government spending in 2021 compared to 2017: Uganda, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Azerbaijan. (These are the 40 countries spending the most on war.)

Click here to see the nations ramping up military spending the most.

Only two of these countries have reduced their military budgets as a share of total annual government spending, including Iran, which was forced to slash military spending to 13% of total public spending from 16% in 2017. Still, Iran increased its spending in nominal terms: from $13.9 billion in 2017 to $24.6 billion last year.

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