Global Military Spending in 2020

Photo: Sgt Amanda Campbell

With Washington increasingly feeling pressure as the multipolar world evolves, the annual summary of global military spending by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is very pertinent to the evolution of the new global reality.

Let's start by looking at global military spending.  Here is a graphic which shows the world's total military spending in 2020 broken down by region:

In 2020, while the global economy shrank by 4.4 percent (October 2020 projection) thanks to government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, military spending rose by 2.6 percent, hitting $1.981 trillion.  In terms of the global economy, military spending rose to an average of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2020, up from 2.2 percent in 2019, the largest year-over-year increase since the Great Recession in 2009.

Let's look at the highlights for the world's three superpowers:

1.) United States – In 2020, Washington's military spending reached an estimated $778 billion an increase of 4.4 percent on a year-over-year basis, the third year in a row of military spending increases.  This military spending accounts for 39 percent of global total military spending.

2.) China – In 2020, second-placed China's military spending reached an estimated $252 billion, an increase of 1.9 percent on a year-over-year basis and a 76 percent increase over the decade from 2011 to 2020 inclusive.  China's military spending has risen every year for the past 26 years, the longest consecutive increases by any nation in SIPRI's database.

3.) Russia – In 2020, fourth-placed Russia's military spending reached an estimated $61.7 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent on a year-over-year basis.  Russia's military spending rose for the second year in a row but was 6.6 percent lower than it initial military budget.

In case you were interested, at $72.9 billion, India's spending on its military in 2020 resulted in the world's second most populous nation occupying third place among all nations. 

Now, let's look at one key group's military spending:

4.) NATO – In 2020, military spending by 12 member nations of NATO rose by more than 2 percent of their GDP on a year-over-year basis compared to only 9 member nations in 2019.  The United Kingdom's spending rose by 2.9 percent to $59.2 billion (putting them into fifth place overall) and Germany's spending rose by 5.2 percent to 52.8 billion (putting them into 7th place overall).

In contrast to many nations, the 11 Middle Eastern nations for which SIPRI has data saw their spending decrease by 6.5 percent in 2020 when compared to 2019, totalling $143 billion.  Saudi Arabia's military spending fell by 10 percent, Kuwait's military spending fell by 5.9 percent and Bahrain cut its military spending by 9.8 percent.

It is rather interesting to see that, with relatively few exceptions among the world's most heavily armed nations, global military spending continued to rise even as nations were forced to spend trillions of dollars on their COVID-19 pandemic responses even as their economies shrank thanks to government-mandated economic shutdowns.  Apparently, the global military-industrial complex/human killing and maiming business still had a great year despite the economic pain that the citizens of the world experienced in 2020.

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