Study: Military Spending Reaches Highest Levels Since 1988

    29 April, 2019

    Countries around the world are spending as much money on their militaries today as they did 30 years ago.

    Researchers say military spending worldwide in 2018 was fueled by increased spending in the United States and China, the world's two largest economies.

    The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported Monday that governments spent $1.82 trillion on troops and military equipment in 2018. That represents an increase of 2.6 percent on the total a year earlier.

    SIPRI said the amount spent last year represents the most military spending since 1988. That was the year when spending information first became available as Cold War tensions began to ease.

    The Cold War lasted over 30 years. On one side was the Soviet Union and its allies, largely in Eastern Europe. On the other was the United States and its allies, mostly in western countries.

    Last year, U.S. military spending rose 4.6 percent to reach $649 billion.

    The United States spent more than any other country on troops and military equipment. It was responsible for nearly 36 percent of total military spending worldwide. SIPRI noted that that amount is nearly equal to the combined spending of the next eight countries on the list.

    China was the second biggest spender. It spent $250 billion in 2018, an increase of 5 percent compared to the year before. China has increased defense spending every year for the past 24 years.

    Nan Tian works as a researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure program. He said, "In 2018, the USA and China accounted for half of the world's military spending."

    FILE - A man watches Russian military jets performing in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia, Aug. 12, 2017.
    FILE - A man watches Russian military jets performing in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia, Aug. 12, 2017.

    SIPRI said last year marked the first increase in U.S. military spending since 2010. The group added that President Donald Trump's defense spending request to Congress this year is the largest ever before adjusting for inflation.

    Trump has expressed support for strong national defenses, but promised to remove U.S. troops from conflict areas around the world.

    After the United States and China, the other top spenders are Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

    Saudi Arabia was the biggest spender per capita on defense, spending just a little more per person than the United States. Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition against Houthi forces in Yemen.

    NATO spending target

    Trump has criticized some U.S. allies in Europe, especially Germany, for failing to meet NATO's spending target of 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The alliance has called members to spend at least that much on their militaries.

    SIPRI said German military spending equaled 1.2 percent of its GDP last year. That number comes from GDP estimates for 2018 from the International Monetary Fund. Germany is Europe's largest economy.

    Britain and France are the two largest economies in Europe after Germany. Britain spent 1.8 percent and France spent 2.3 percent of GDP on defense in 2018.

    SIPRI added that military spending by all 29 NATO members was just more than 50 percent of the world's total.

    It noted that Russia left the top five spenders' list after a decline of 3.5 percent in 2018. Russia has been involved in the Syrian conflict and it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

    Even with a desire to improve Russia's military, President Vladimir Putin has been forced to cut spending because of lower oil prices. Oil is Russia's main export. Putin has called on the government to increase spending on programs aimed at helping Russian citizens.

    Russian military spending began to decrease for the first time in 20 years in 2017. SIPRI estimated Russia's spending fell 20 percent.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.

    The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. The editor was George Grow.

    Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    adjust – v. to change or move something in reaction to a new situation; to get used to

    per capita adj. or adv.f or each person

    gross domestic product – n. the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year

    annex – v. to take over or to claim ownership