Defense Spending Around the World: Military Expenditure as a Percentage of Total Budget

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The countries that spend the most on their armies, in proportion to their means. Newsweek

Russia’s military budget hit the news earlier this year, when it was slashed by about 20 percent in a single year. This seemed to contradict the country’s bold claims to be developing sleek new military technologies.

Russia was going against global trends—the world’s total military spending actually increased 1.1 percent in real terms from 2016, according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

But not every country spends the same proportion of their total government budget on military hardware and weapons. Using data from SIPRI, we have ranked the countries which are spending the most on defense, in proportion to their means.

Although the amount the U.S. spends on its military is far higher than any other country in terms of total dollar amount, it actually doesn't spend such a high proportion of its budget on defense.

That dubious honor generally goes to poorer nations in high conflict zones, which need a lot of military power despite limited budgets. The top nation spends almost a third of its entire budget on its military, while just three percent of the budget is allocated to education, and even less is allocated to health spending, according to All Africa.

Middle Eastern countries also spend a high proportion of their budget on military. “Despite low oil prices, armed conflict and rivalries throughout the Middle East are driving the rise in military spending in the region,” said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme.

On the other end of the scale are places such as Costa Rica and Iceland, which spend nothing on at all on defense and have no standing army. A little further up are wealthy countries such as Japan and Belgium, which have militaries but allot them a small proportion of their budget—for Belgium, that number is only 1.7 percent.

British readers may like to know that the United Kingdom narrowly missed out on a top 75 place. But it could be a very different picture next year if Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson makes good on his threat to squeeze another £20 billion out of Theresa May, and if the post-Brexit British economy shrinks in line with forecasts.

See also: Military Expenditure Per Capita: Which Countries Spend the Most on Defense Per Person?

The global trend towards more spending is worrying for some. “Continuing high world military expenditure is a cause for serious concern,” said Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board. “It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world.” Here are the countries working towards a demilitarised future—and the countries that are doing just the opposite.

00 Paraguay
75. Paraguay. Military expenditure: $348 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 4.7%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.2%. Jorge Adorno/Reuters
01 Indonesia
74. Indonesia. Military expenditure: $8.2 billion. As a percentage of total government spending: 4.8%. As a percentage of GDP: 0.8%. Beawiharta/Reuters
03 Cyprus
73. Cyprus. Military expenditure: $395 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.0%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.9%. Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters
03 Greece
72. Greece. Military expenditure: $5.1 billion. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.0%. As a percentage of GDP: 2.5%. Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP
04 Malaysia
71. Malaysia. Military expenditure: $3.5 billion. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.0%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.1%. Mohd Rasfan/AFP
05 Lithuania
70. Lithuania. Military expenditure: $812 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.0%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.7%. Ints Kalnins/Reuters
06 Rwanda
69. Rwanda. Military expenditure: $111 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.1%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.0%. Edwin Musoni/AFP
07 Burkina
68. Burkina Faso. Military expenditure: $191 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.1%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.4%. Issouf Sanogo/AFP
08 Ivory Coast
67. Ivory Coast. Military expenditure: $496 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.1%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.3%. Luc Gnago/Reuters
09 Estonia
66. Estonia. Military expenditure: $536 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.2%. As a percentage of GDP: 2.1%. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
10 Benin
65. Benin. Military expenditure: $116.1 million. As a percentage of total government spending: 5.2%. As a percentage of GDP: 1.2%. Boris Horvat/AFP