President Trump is busy implementing his “America First” foreign policy agenda on the world stage. He has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, scheduled a meeting with North Korea, and rattled American trade partners with threats of tariffs. Amid all these news stories, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Trump also just signed the largest military budget in American history, totaling some $700B. This got us thinking about how military expenditures compare across the world.
Our numbers come from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an organization dedicated to studying conflict and global security. SIPRI collected the military budgets for every country in the world in 2017, the latest numbers available. They also determined each country’s expenditures as a percentage of global military spending, and as a percentage of GDP. We illustrated these figures as a pie chart where the size of the piece represents the relative size of the financial outlay and the color corresponds to the percentage of GDP. We included each country’s percentage of worldwide expenditures as a label for easy reference. This gives a three-dimensional view of the military-industrial complex around the world.
Top 15 Countries Spending the Most on War
1. United States: $610B or 35% of the world
2. People’s Republic of China: $228B or 13% of the world
3. Saudi Arabia: $69.4B or 4% of the world
4. Russia: $66.3B or 3.8% of the world
5. India: $63.9B or 3.7% of the world
6. France: $57.8B or 3.3% of the world
7. United Kingdom: $47.2B or 2.7% of the world
8. Japan: $45.4B or 2.6% of the world
9. Germany: $44.3B or 2.5% of the world
10. South Korea: $39.2B or 2.3% of the world
11. Brazil: $29.3B or 1.7% of the world
12. Italy: $29.2B or 1.7% of the world
13. Australia: $27.5B or 1.6% of the world
14. Canada: $20.6B or 1.2% of the world
15. Turkey: $18.2B or 1% of the world
16. The Rest of the World: $342.7B or 19.9% of the world
There are several fascinating geopolitical trends lying beneath the surface of our data. Most people already know that the U.S. spends more on its military than any other country, but the magnitude of the gap can be quite shocking. Americans spend almost three times as much as the Chinese, the second-highest on our ranking. Americans spend more than every other country (except China) in the top fifteen combined ($610B vs. $558B). It is amazing to consider just how imbalanced these figures are. In terms of population, the U.S. is home to roughly 327M people, or four times fewer than China.
Our visualization adds yet another dynamic to consider—the size of the economy. We would expect large countries with big economies to spend more overall. The U.S. government spends so much because it has such an enormous economy from which it can draw tax dollars for the military, amounting to 3.1% of annual GDP. Compare that to Saudi Arabia which spends only $69.4B, but that amounts to 10% of its GDP. This means that Saudi Arabia devotes a disproportionate amount of its economy to the military. Most countries fall somewhere between 1 and 2% of GDP.
At its core, our this analysis demonstrates that President Trump inherited a very strong position in which to enact his America First agenda. The United States already spends significantly more money on its military than any other country and that number is only going to increase. A lot of this money will be going to support the American troopsdeployed in 177 countries around the world. We will have to wait and see how many countries will have an American military presence at the end of Trump’s presidency, but we bet it is going to be more, not less.
Data: Table 1.1