As Europe begins a regional arms race, global military spending reaches a new high

In 2022, NATO members' military expenditures totalled $1,232 billion, 0.9% more than in 2021.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

In real terms, global military expenditures increased by 3.7% in 2022, reaching a new peak of $2,240 billion. In at least 30 years, the annual increase in Europe’s military spending was at its highest point. The United States, China, and Russia accounted for 56% of global military expenditures in 2022, according to new data on global military spending released today by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

The highest increase in spending, 13%, was observed in Europe and was primarily attributable to Russian and Ukrainian spending. However, military aid to Ukraine and concerns about a heightened threat from Russia and tensions in East Asia strongly influenced the spending decisions of many other nations.

In 2022, the military expenditures of Central and Western European nations totalled $345 billion. In real terms, these states’ expenditures surpassed those of 1989 for the first time as the cold war ended and were 30% higher than in 2013. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, several states substantially increased their military spending, while others announced plans to increase spending over the next decade.

The invasion of Ukraine immediately affected decisions regarding military expenditures in Central and Western Europe. Dr. Diego Lopes da Silva, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme, stated that this included multi-year plans to increase expenditure by several governments. Consequently, it is reasonable to anticipate that military spending in Central and Western Europe will continue to rise in the coming years.

Finland (+36%), Lithuania (+27%), Sweden (+12%), and Poland (+11%) exhibited some of the most significant increases.

Russia and Ukraine increase military expenditure as the conflict escalates

In 2022, the Russian military budget was projected to increase by 9.2% to approximately $86.4 billion. This represented an increase from 3.7% of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021 to 4.1% of Russia’s GDP in 2022.

Late in 2022, Russia disclosed data indicating that spending on national defence, the most significant component of Russian military expenditures, was already 34% higher than projected in 2021 budgetary plans.

The disparity between Russia’s planned and actual military expenditure in 2022 indicates that the invasion of Ukraine has cost Russia significantly more than anticipated. Director of SIPRI’s Military Expenditures and Arms Production Programme, Dr. Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, made this statement.

In 2022, Ukraine’s military expenditures reached $44.0 billion. This was the largest annual increase in a country’s military spending recorded by SIPRI data, at 640%. Due to the increase and the war-related damage to Ukraine’s economy, the military burden (military expenditure as a percentage of GDP) increased to 34 per cent of GDP in 2022, up from 3.2 per cent in 2021.

Despite high inflation, US expenditures expand

The United States remains by far the largest military spender in the globe. In 2022, US military expenditures reached $877 billion, representing 39 per cent of global military expenditures and three times the amount spent by China, the world’s second-largest spender. The 0.7% increase in real terms in US spending in 2022 would have been even greater if not for the highest inflation levels since 1981.

The increase in the United States military expenditures in 2022 was primarily attributable to the country’s unprecedented military financial aid to Ukraine, said Dr. Nan Tian, Senior Researcher at SIPRI. Given the magnitude of US spending, even a modest increase in percentage terms substantially affects the level of global military spending.

In 2022, the total US military aid to Ukraine was $19.9 billion. Although this was the largest quantity of military aid given to a single recipient by any country since the end of the cold war, it represented only 2.3% of US military expenditures. In 2022, the United States budgeted $295 billion for military operations and maintenance, $264 billion for procurement and R&D, and $167 billion for military personnel.

NATO countries up spending

In 2022, NATO members’ military expenditures totalled $1,232 billion, 0.9% more than in 2021. The United Kingdom had the highest military expenditures in Central and Western Europe, totalling $68.5 billion, of which an estimated $2.5 billion (3.6%) was military aid to Ukraine. In 2022, Turkey’s military expenditures decreased for the third consecutive year, reaching $10.6 billion, a decrease of 26% from 2021.

China and Japan continue to increase their expenditures in Asia and Oceania.

The aggregate military expenditures of Asian and Oceanic nations totalled $575 billion. This was 2.7% more than in 2021 and 45.0% more than in 2013, continuing a rise that began at least in 1989.

China remained the second largest military spender globally in 2022, allocating an estimated $292 billion. This was a 4,2% increase over 2021 and a 63% increase over 2013. China’s military spending has increased for the past 28 years.

Between 2021 and 2022, Japan’s military expenditures increased by 5.9%, reaching $46.0 billion, or 1.1% of GDP. Since 1960, this was the highest level of Japanese military spending. In response to perceived expanding threats from China, North Korea, and Russia, a new national security strategy published in 2022 outlines ambitious plans to expand Japan’s military capabilities over the next decade.

Spending by the rest of the world

In 2022, the effects of inflation, which in many countries reached levels not seen in decades, restrained the growth of global military expenditures in real terms. The global total increased by 6.5% nominal (i.e., current prices without inflation adjustment). 

India’s military expenditures of $81.4 billion ranked fourth worldwide. It was six percentage points higher than in 2021. 

Saudi Arabia, the fifth largest military spender, increased its military expenditure by 16% in 2022 to an estimated $75 billion, its first increase since 2018. Nigeria’s military spending decreased by 38 per cent to $3.1 billion in 2022, following a 56 per cent increase in 2021.  

The upsurge occurred when the government resumed its offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the northern part of the country.


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