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Countries spending the most on their militaries

  • Countries spending the most on their militaries
    1/ Lockheed Martin // Getty

    Countries spending the most on their militaries

    President Donald Trump continues to make headlines with his demands that America's fellow members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) devote more of their budgets toward military and defense spending.

    The alliance between the U.S. and a number of European powers was formed in April 1949 in hopes of deterring the Soviet Union from its conquest of Europe. It was founded on the principle of collective defense, which means that every member of NATO will come to the aid of any other member that is attacked. That's one reason why, for example, French and British troops fought in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11.

    This theory of collective defense requires collective spending so that every ally has a military that's fully prepared to help when called to do so. While it's almost universally agreed that some military spending is necessary for security purposes, especially given the ever-rising threats of terrorism around the world, it's still unclear how much defense spending is adequate.

    It is also often difficult to pinpoint what a country spends on its military in a given year. In 2002, NATO defined military expenditure to include: current spending on the armed forces (including peacekeeping and paramilitary forces), defense ministries and other government agencies involved in defense, military space activities, personnel costs (pensions and social services), aid, research and development, operation and maintenance, and procurement of military supplies.

    However, despite that lengthy definition, coming up with an accurate calculation can be a formidable task. One country might consider certain costs to be military expenditures while another might classify them as some other kind of spending. In addition, because some countries aren't transparent about their military budgets, the data that experts put forth may not match the figures released by governments.

    Still, getting even a general handle on which countries are spending the most on their militaries is helpful in discovering where hotspots are—from confrontations in the South China Sea to counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East—and identifying, for better or worse, the nations with the most firepower.

    Using data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) via The World Bank, Stacker ranked the 50 countries spending the most on their military, based on estimates from 2017. North Korea is notably missing from the list, as data was not available for it from 2017. The list provides a sweeping view of pressing conflicts around the world today. 

    You may also like: States with the most military engagement

  • #50. Angola
    2/ GovernmentZA // Flickr

    #50. Angola

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.1 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 10.3% (#24 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $103 (#41 among countries)

    Angola emerged as a unified nation after 25 years of civil war (which came after winning independence from Portugal's colonial rule in 1975). It continues to have one of Africa's most well-equipped and experienced militaries. However, Angola's economy relies on oil, and the recent downturn in global oil prices have led to dramatic cuts in military spending. The country has been at peace since the end of the civil war, leading some to wonder if that money might be better spent paying down debts or combating the high child mortality rates.

  • #49. Morocco
    3/ FRED TANNEAU/AFP // Getty

    #49. Morocco

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.5 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 10.7% (#22 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $117 (#39 among countries)

    Morocco has occupied the territory of Western Sahara for nearly 50 years. The Kingdom built the second-longest defensive wall in history in order to keep the Polisario (a group advocating for independence) isolated. This has led to tensions with Algeria, which supports independence in Western Sahara, but Morocco's close ties to the U.S. and Western European powers have provided the country with the support it needs.

  • #48. Malaysia
    4/ Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Moriatis USN // Wikimedia Commons

    #48. Malaysia

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.5 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 5.0% (#69 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $8,010 (#3 among countries)

    Malaysia cites its “peaceful transition to democracy” as the inspiration for its continued involvement in UN peacekeeping missions in various hotspots around the world, deploying around 29,000 peacekeepers in over 30 missions. Malaysia's conflicts with China over territory in the South China Sea, along with terrorist activity and the presence of extremist groups within its borders, also call for a strong military.

  • #47. Bangladesh
    5/ MONUSCO Photos // Wikimedia Commons

    #47. Bangladesh

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 9.6% (#27 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $022 (#50 among countries)

    Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping missions around the globe, contributing forces recently in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, to name a few. But the Bangladeshi military faces bigger struggles back home. It is deeply entwined with business and politics and has been accused of caring more about profits than defending the country from security threats.

  • #46. Finland
    6/ Jne Valokuvaus // Shutterstock

    #46. Finland

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.7% (#114 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $653 (#16 among countries)

    World War II ended in 1945, but Finland still subscribes to a theory of “total defense,” which requires the military be ready at all times for a large-scale emergency or conflict. For example, all Finnish men must serve up to a year in the armed forces or civil service. Increased aggression and threats from Russia in and around the Baltic region has spurred Finland to increase the number of troops in its reserve, improve its international relations, and spend more on weapons and resources just in case.

  • #45. South Africa
    7/ WIKUS DE WET/AFP // Getty

    #45. South Africa

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.1% (#101 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $064 (#44 among countries)

    Compared with other countries, South Africa spends very little on its military, averaging about 1% of its GDP. The South African military still maintains a number of commitments, participating in UN peacekeeping missions across Africa while also being tasked with controlling pollution outbreaks and quashing crime within the country. It is considered one of the most well-trained and supplied militaries in Southern Africa.

  • #44. Ukraine
    8/ khorkins // Shutterstock

    #44. Ukraine

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 7.8% (#40 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $081 (#43 among countries)

    When Russia stepped in and annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the Ukrainian military found itself woefully unprepared for the fighting that followed. In the years since, Ukraine has stepped up its fighting force in both numbers and military capability without any significant increase in funding. However, as the conflict continues, Russia's sheer size leaves the smaller country at a disadvantage.

  • #43. Portugal
    9/ FRANSCISCO LEONG/AFP // Getty

    #43. Portugal

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.9% (#88 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $367 (#25 among countries)

    Mere decades after the end of their brutal colonial regime in Africa, Portuguese forces have returned to the continent for “peace enforcing” missions in the Central African Republic and Mali. These forays into counter-terrorism operations mark Portugal's attempts to stabilize the region during its presidency of the European Union. Portugal is also close geographically to countries like Libya, leaving it more exposed to possible terrorist attacks.

  • #42. Denmark
    10/ Anna50 // Shutterstock

    #42. Denmark

    - Military expenditure (2017): $3.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.2% (#121 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $658 (#15 among countries)

    Denmark has plans to increase its military spending to $229.7 million by 2023—a clear sign of its support for NATO as the Trump Administration continues pushing for more equitable contributions from countries in the alliance. A relatively safe country, most of Denmark's increase budget is aimed at improving cybersecurity to counter terrorist threats and possible aggression by Russia.

  • #41. Romania
    11/ DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP // Getty

    #41. Romania

    - Military expenditure (2017): $4.0 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 6.2% (#55 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $204 (#32 among countries)

    Romania has previously sent troops to support NATO and U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. In the two decades since, it has been forced to deal with problems a bit closer to home--namely its location in the strategically important Black Sea region. Romania and Russia, which borders the Black Sea on the opposite side, have historically been at odds and Romania has positioned itself as a leader of its neighbors against Russian forces. The Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula kicked Romania into higher gear, and tensions remain high because Romania is home to the U.S. missile defense system.

  • #40. Philippines
    12/ Jeentai // Shutterstock

    #40. Philippines

    - Military expenditure (2017): $4.4 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 6.9% (#46 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $042 (#48 among countries)

    The Philippines have become one of the leading voices protesting China's attempt to claim disputed territory in the South China Sea, even taking Beijing to international court over the issue. In order to stand up to one of the world's most formidable military powers, the government needed to upgrade equipment that has been in use since the 1990s. The country has also been dealing with an increased terrorist presence in its Muslim-majority areas, where Islamic State-affiliated groups have infiltrated.

  • #39. Sudan
    13/ Eduard Onyshchenko // Wikimedia Commons

    #39. Sudan

    - Military expenditure (2017): $4.4 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 30.9% (#1 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $108 (#40 among countries)

    Sudan may have spent anywhere from 25 to 70% of its total budget on its military engagements around the world. The exploding costs are driven by Sudanese wars in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile; economists estimate that Sudan spends millions of dollars a day on warfare. Corruption and low spending on health and education are a result, and some Sudanese residents believe that these internal conflicts might be more easily resolved if the government were to spend less money on fighting and more on helpful social services.

  • #38. Belgium
    14/ John Ceulemans // Shutterstock

    #38. Belgium

    - Military expenditure (2017): $4.4 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 1.7% (#130 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $391 (#24 among countries)

    In 2014, Belgium and the other NATO members agreed to stop cutting defense spending and instead work to modernize their militaries. The Belgian government responded by proposing a 2018 plan to purchase $11.3 billion in new equipment and weapons systems in the next decade. However, Belgium has been making huge budget cuts in almost every other sector (including education and the judicial system), leading critics to question why the military should receive such a big boost while other government sectors are tightening their belts.

  • #37. Switzerland
    15/ Kecko // Flickr

    #37. Switzerland

    - Military expenditure (2017): $4.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.0% (#128 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $547 (#19 among countries)

    The Swiss Armed Forces spent the last few years determining the best way to modernize its forces, replacing old equipment, improving communications and cybersecurity, and bringing the force into the 21st century. This comes after reports from its Ministry of Defense that Switzerland faces a heightened risk of terrorist attacks as Europe grows more polarized and militarized.

  • #36. Vietnam
    16/ U.S. D.O.D.

    #36. Vietnam

    - Military expenditure (2017): $5.1 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 7.9% (#39 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $053 (#46 among countries)

    In 2011, Vietnam laid out its 10-year plan for defending its 2,000 miles of coast and territorial waters around the South China Sea in the face of increased Chinese intrusion. Recently, Beijing has attempted to claim the territory by building artificial islands. Drawing on Cold War ties with the Russian government, Vietnam has spent a decade modernizing its navy and other armed forces while working with international courts to resolve the issue more peacefully.

  • #35. Greece
    17/ Bestravelvideo // Shutterstock

    #35. Greece

    - Military expenditure (2017): $5.1 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 5.0% (#70 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $473 (#22 among countries)

    Even while it was struggling under a crippling financial crisis, Greece remained one of the NATO members paying the highest percentage of its GDP toward defense. This is partially explained by the long-simmering rivalry between Greece and neighboring Turkey: The two states have been in a military arms race since Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus 40 years ago. The relationship between the rivals has begun to thaw, but the deep distrust Greece has for Turkey and most of its neighbors seems likely to keep the military budget high, just in case.

  • #34. Chile
    18/ Pablo Rogat // Shutterstock

    #34. Chile

    - Military expenditure (2017): $5.1 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 7.2% (#45 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $284 (#28 among countries)

    Most of Chile's military spending goes toward UN peacekeeping missions and land disputes with Bolivia and Peru that go all the way back to the 19th century War of the Pacific. The land won by a victorious Chile cut off Bolivia's access to the sea and Bolivia has been fighting to get it back ever since. Though the International Court of Justice ruled against forcing Chile to negotiate with its neighbor for sea access, Bolivia has vowed to not stop fighting.

  • #33. Sweden
    19/ JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP // Getty

    #33. Sweden

    - Military expenditure (2017): $5.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.2% (#123 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $552 (#18 among countries)

    Sweden's location in the Baltic region gives it a growing importance in the changing politics on the European continent, with Russia looming large over the conversation. The 2018 elections saw huge gains for parties advocating for increased defense spending to improve cybersecurity and reverse years of decline in the military's budget.

  • #32. Argentina
    20/ yaninaamira // Shutterstock

    #32. Argentina

    - Military expenditure (2017): $5.7 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.2% (#122 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $128 (#38 among countries)

    In November 2017, an Argentinean submarine disappeared, killing 44 crew members. A national debate over Argentina's military readiness erupted within the country, pushing lawmakers to increase funding to the military at the expense of other ministries and programs. That led teachers across the country to go on strike in protest against cuts to education

  • #31. Mexico
    21/ Archive: U.S. Secretary of Defense // Flickr

    #31. Mexico

    - Military expenditure (2017): $5.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.2% (#124 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $54,780 (#1 among countries)

    Mexico's new left-wing president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, proposed increasing the military's budget as he kicked off his first term. Lopez Obrador sees a strong military as necessary to quell the increased violence Mexico has seen over the last several years. The military polices drug cartels in the country since corruption has left the police ineffective; some citizens, however, are uneasy with the idea of an open-ended police mandate for the military.

  • #30. Thailand
    22/ Sgt. Pablo N. Piedra, USA // Wikimedia Commons

    #30. Thailand

    - Military expenditure (2017): $6.3 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 1.0% (#142 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $092 (#42 among countries)

    Thailand is “the world's last military dictatorship,” by the most strict definition of the word. Military juntas have consolidated power and coups happen semi-regularly, usually spiking defense spending each time. The junta refused to slash defense spending in the most recent budget proposal, voicing fears that the Thai military would be left unable to modernize or otherwise quell the internal protests and insurgent groups within its borders.

  • #29. Norway
    23/ Norwegian Army // Flickr

    #29. Norway

    - Military expenditure (2017): $6.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.4% (#97 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,243 (#10 among countries)

    Norway's shared Arctic border with Russia is a source of concern for both the Norwegian military and the country's allies as Russia becomes more active in the Arctic region. Norway spends the least on defense (measured by percentage of GDP) of any country bordering Russia. Tensions have flared, with Norway's NATO allies due to its military budget, but recent joint military exercises with the U.S. presented a strong, united front along the border.

  • #28. Kuwait
    24/ DVIDSHUB // Flickr

    #28. Kuwait

    - Military expenditure (2017): $6.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 11.3% (#19 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,651 (#9 among countries)

    Kuwait, one of America's allies in the Persian Gulf, military has joined several other countries in fighting the Iranian-back Houthis fighting in nearby Yemen. But in most international situations, Kuwait prefers to mediate conflicts rather than make use of its military. Domestically, the Kuwaiti military is deeply concerned with border security; the shared border with Iraq leaves it potentially exposed to infiltration by ISIS and other extremist groups.

  • #27. Iraq
    25/ Tommy Avilucea, U.S. Air Force // Wikimedia Commons

    #27. Iraq

    - Military expenditure (2017): $7.4 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 9.4% (#28 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $194 (#34 among countries)

    Since the 2003 Iraq War toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, victorious U.S. forces have tried mightily to train the Iraqi military so it is capable of taking on insurgent groups in the region, as well as helping to rebuild the nation. How successful that effort has been remains a question mark. It was only with the help of U.S.-backed forces that Iraq was able to reverse the juggernaut of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups, finally declaring victory in 2017.

  • #26. Indonesia
    26/ Gitoyo Aryo // Wikimedia Commons

    #26. Indonesia

    - Military expenditure (2017): $8.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 4.8% (#72 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $031 (#49 among countries)

    China's attempts to assert dominance in the waters of the South China Sea have caused territorial disputes with Indonesia. The military budget increases will allow Indonesia to modernize and reinforce its military bases. That's not the military's only engagement; reports allege that the Indonesian National Force has committed numerous human rights violations in Nduga regency, Papua, forcing residents to flee their homes.

  • #25. Oman
    27/ Dan Kitwood // Getty

    #25. Oman

    - Military expenditure (2017): $8.7 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 26.3% (#3 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,874 (#6 among countries)

    Oman's resources and location make it a high-security risk because ships carrying 20% of the world's oil pass through the Strait of Hormuz, which lies between Oman and Iran. Iran has threatened to cut off access to the strait in the event of conflict. Oman also hosts the U.S. during operations in the Middle East and assists in counter-terrorism operations. Thanks to its commitment to neutrality, Oman often mediates conflicts between the U.S. and Iran and other conflicting groups in the Middle East.

  • #24. Colombia
    28/ Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Aquite // Wikimedia Commons

    #24. Colombia

    - Military expenditure (2017): $9.7 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 11.0% (#20 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $198 (#33 among countries)

    For five decades, the world's longest civil war was waged in Colombia, pitting left-wing guerilla groups against government-backed paramilitary forces. The war ended with a historic armistice agreement in early 2017, but Colombia has not stopped investing in its military. While some of the funds will now go toward programs to smooth the peace process, the country also faces issues with drug trafficking and the ongoing economic and political crisis in Venezuela, which has the potential to spark a violent conflict.

  • #23. Poland
    29/ irena iris szewczyk // Shutterstock

    #23. Poland

    - Military expenditure (2017): $10.0 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 4.6% (#76 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $264 (#29 among countries)

    Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in neighboring Ukraine spurred Poland to beef up its security apparatus for fear that Moscow's territorial aggression might expand. Its increased spending also serves to answer calls by the Trump Administration for NATO allies to pay their fair share of the alliance's budget. But critics charge that Poland's rapid military expansion could harm the nation's economy and leave it more vulnerable to attacks if Russia invaded.

  • #22. Netherlands
    30/ VanderWolf Images // Shutterstock

    #22. Netherlands

    - Military expenditure (2017): $10.0 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.8% (#111 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $35,829 (#2 among countries)

    The Dutch military shrunk considerably in the years after the Cold War, apart from a small bump during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to routine budget cuts by the Dutch government. Although the country and its people continue to be strong supporters of the NATO alliance, which remains the cornerstone of its security policy, they are also committed to more defense in the European Union. The Netherlands has since realized it can't meet the security commitments to NATO under its current budget and has since slowly started ramping up spending.

  • #21. Algeria
    31/ Mass Communication Specialist Steven Harbour // Wikimedia Commons

    #21. Algeria

    - Military expenditure (2017): $10.1 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 16.1% (#8 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $244 (#30 among countries)

    A booming economy supported by oil and natural gas reserves led Algeria to become the largest military spender on the African continent, asserting its military dominance in the region. Algeria has managed hold onto its No. 1 spot despite the country's recent economic downturn. Much of the money is spent combating extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), whose attacks have seen a marked decline thanks to Algerian defense efforts. Algeria is also in an arms race with other countries in North Africa (particularly Tunisia and Morocco).

  • #20. Singapore
    32/ Sgt. Eric Rutherford // Wikimedia Commons

    #20. Singapore

    - Military expenditure (2017): $10.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 17.2% (#6 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,817 (#8 among countries)

    Despite its small size, Singapore has one of the most advanced militaries in South East Asia. Its budget has remained steady in recent years despite cybersecurity threats and increased threats from terrorist organizations operating in the region, specifically ISIS and its affiliates. China's attempts to claim territory in the South China Sea are of concern to the nation-state, but the government has been careful not to let the conflict develop into outright hostilities.

  • #19. Pakistan
    33/ FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP // Getty

    #19. Pakistan

    - Military expenditure (2017): $10.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 16.7% (#7 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $055 (#45 among countries)

    Disputes between Pakistan and India over who should control the Muslim-majority Kashmir province have led to flare-ups of violence between the two countries, coming to the brink of war in late February and early March 2019. The military has also been a key ally in American counter-terrorism operations in the region.

  • #18. Iran, Islamic Rep.
    34/ IIAF // Wikimedia Commons

    #18. Iran, Islamic Rep.

    - Military expenditure (2017): $14.5 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 15.8% (#10 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $179 (#35 among countries)

    Iran is a major player in the Middle East despite being outspent in defense by the countries it sees as its biggest threats, including the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia. To retain its influence in the region, it provides support to the Syrian military in the ongoing civil war there and backs groups that include the Houthi rebels currently fighting in Yemen. Sanctions from the U.S. and its allies, reimposed after America pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, have forced Iran to manufacture most of its weapons domestically.

  • #17. Spain
    35/ JJFarq // Shutterstock

    #17. Spain

    - Military expenditure (2017): $16.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.0% (#106 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $348 (#27 among countries)

    As a member of the European Union, the NATO alliance, and the UN, Span is engaged in a number of counter-terrorism and peacekeeping missions worldwide. Additionally, a recent bid for independence by the region of Catalan has threatened to degenerate into violence, most recently in early 2018. Spain recently announced that it will be boosting its defense spending to fall more in line with NATO targets.

  • #16. Israel
    36/ Israel Defense Forces // Wikimedia Commons

    #16. Israel

    - Military expenditure (2017): $16.5 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 11.5% (#18 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,893 (#5 among countries)

    Since Israel's creation in 1948, it's been involved in a series of wars with other powers throughout the Middle East, as well as continuing conflict with the Palestinian people. Military service is compulsory for almost all Israeli citizens, and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed for an increase in spending with his “2030 Security Concept,” which would tie the military's budget to the country's GDP. Others, including Israel's central bank, have been critical of the move, noting that cuts to social programs may result.

  • #15. Turkey
    37/ BAKR ALKASEM/AFP // Getty

    #15. Turkey

    - Military expenditure (2017): $18.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 6.4% (#52 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $225 (#31 among countries)

    Because of its shared border, Turkey is heavily involved in the Syria's long and devastating civil war as well as in efforts to combat ISIS and other extremist groups in the Middle East. The military is also occupied with conflict within its borders, quashing repeated attempts by the Kurdish minority to establish its own state. A failed military coup in 2016 reestablished ties between the military and the government, changing the face of the armed forces as Turkey tries to increase its influence in the Middle East and Europe.

  • #14. Canada
    38/ Paul McKinnon // Shutterstock

    #14. Canada

    - Military expenditure (2017): $20.6 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.1% (#102 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $560 (#17 among countries)

    After pressure by the U.S. to spend more on national defense in 2017, Canada promised to boost military funding by 70% in the next decade. Canadian politicians see America's increasingly isolationist foreign policy as an opportunity for the Great White North to have a more prominent position on the global stage. Critics of these new goals point out that the money for a bigger budget has to come from somewhere, threatening to raise taxes or force cuts to Canada's robust social safety net.

  • #13. Australia
    39/ paintings // Shutterstock

    #13. Australia

    - Military expenditure (2017): $27.5 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 5.4% (#61 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,116 (#11 among countries)

    China's aggressive military actions in the South China Sea have put Australia's military on watch, and the country has voiced support for Japan's increase in military spending because of the rising threats in the region. Australia seems likely to increase military spending to 2% of GDP by the early 2020s, a goal that has firmed up its alliance with the U.S. The country also spent $1.3 billion to increase its share of the global arms trade, hoping to boost the Australian manufacturing industry.

  • #12. Italy
    40/ Antonello Marangi // Shutterstock

    #12. Italy

    - Military expenditure (2017): $29.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.1% (#100 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $483 (#21 among countries)

    Unlike most countries on this list, Italy has been actively trying to decrease its defense spending. The populist government has announced plans to slash half a billion dollars from the military's budget in 2019 in order to fund social programs. This puts the country's spending well below the NATO target of 2% of GDP and has drawn the ire of allies. Italy seeks to amend what counts as defense spending under NATO rules, arguing that cybersecurity should be included when calculating how much a nation is putting toward its defense.

  • #11. Brazil
    41/ Victor Soares/ABr // Wikimedia Commons

    #11. Brazil

    - Military expenditure (2017): $29.3 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 3.7% (#91 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $140 (#37 among countries)

    Though Brazil is largely free of external conflicts, it has Latin America's largest military budget, much of which is spent policing drug trafficking and providing security in cities and the high-poverty favela neighborhoods. An economic crisis has crippled Brazil's economy and hampered its ability to increase its military spending, delaying several military projects, but that may change. Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro, inherits an improving economy and, as a former army captain is closely tied to the military.

  • #10. Korea, Rep.
    42/ WEERAPON PROMLUANGSRI // Shutterstock

    #10. Korea, Rep.

    - Military expenditure (2017): $39.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 12.1% (#16 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $761 (#13 among countries)

    Tensions between South Korea and its northern neighbor shaped much of the Republic's defense policy—and budget since the Korean Peninsula was divided at the end of the Korean War. A significant portion of the budget proposed in 2018 has been earmarked for efforts to increase cooperation between the two countries. President Moon Jae-in and North Korea's Kim Jong Un signed the Panmunjom Declaration after a summit in April last year and committed to halt in hostilities and denuclearization, though that goal remains elusive.

  • #9. Germany
    43/ wlodi // Flickr

    #9. Germany

    - Military expenditure (2017): $44.3 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.7% (#112 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $536 (#20 among countries)

    German's military spending has long been a source of contention between the country and its NATO allies, including the U.S., with cutbacks reducing its military readiness and contribution to the alliance's defense funds. In 2018, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced spending increases that would bring Germany more in line with other NATO countries. However, smaller-than-expected economic growth and domestic political conflict have had an impact on Germany's ability to make good on the pledge. This could potentially harm its relationship with the U.S. and other NATO countries.

  • #8. Japan
    44/ akiyoko // Shutterstock

    #8. Japan

    - Military expenditure (2017): $45.4 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 2.6% (#117 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $358 (#26 among countries)

    Japan's close proximity to the Korean Peninsula (and North Korea's nuclear weapons program) and China's attempts to militarize the South China Sea has driven the record-breaking growth in its military budget over the last seven years. President Donald Trump has criticized Japan for its trade surplus with the U.S. and now the latest military budget changes how some funds are allocated in order to make it easier for Tokyo to buy more American military technology and hopefully improve trade between the two allies.

  • #7. United Kingdom
    45/ 7th Army Training Command // Flickr

    #7. United Kingdom

    - Military expenditure (2017): $47.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 4.7% (#74 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $715 (#14 among countries)

    The UK's defense spending has fallen in recent years, and its army is the smallest it has been since the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. In 2018 the Trump Administration called on its close ally to increase military spending or risk seeing its power and influence diminished on the world stage, echoing the criticism of some in Great Britain.

  • #6. France
    46/ DreamSlamStudio // Shutterstock

    #6. France

    - Military expenditure (2017): $57.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 4.0% (#86 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $861 (#12 among countries)

    French president Emmanuel Macron faced backlash early in his presidency after he attempted to cut the French military budget. He has since walked back those attempts in favor of expanding France's presence in the worldwide fight against violent extremism. Some 30,000 French troops are currently stationed around the globe. Major international operations include troops in the Middle East and a strong presence in Africa because of the major military bases that remain there—remnants of France's colonial empire.

  • #5. India
    47/ Antônio Milena // Wikimedia Commons

    #5. India

    - Military expenditure (2017): $63.9 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 9.1% (#31 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $048 (#47 among countries)

    India surpassed France for the first time in military spending but much of that money goes toward paying salaries and pensions to the world's second-largest army, with 1.4 million currently serving troops and more than 2 million veterans. The government's promise to modernize Indian defense forces have been stymied by inflation and other problems in the budget, making it more difficult to outpace China in the “arms race” on the Asian continent. Outside the budget, India's biggest military conflicts are close to home; conflict with Pakistan over the disputed territory in the Kashmir Province, recently came to the brink of full-blown war.

  • #4. Russian Federation
    48/ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

    #4. Russian Federation

    - Military expenditure (2017): $66.3 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): data not available
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $459 (#23 among countries)

    A stagnating Russian economy has led to declines in military spending for the first time since the country defaulted on its debts in 1998. Russia's increased military spending reflects its willingness to become engaged with conflicts around the world. The annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 led to a military face-off with Ukraine, increasing tensions in the former Soviet-bloc, and worldwide condemnation. Russia is also involved in Syria's ongoing civil war, backing Bashar al-Assad's regime. In addition, it has sent troops to Venezuela at the request of President Nicolás Maduro. Such commitments might have to shrink if Russia's military budget continues to do so as well.

    (NOTE: No GDP data was available for Russia in this dataset.)

  • #3. Saudi Arabia
    49/ AHMED FARWAN // Flickr

    #3. Saudi Arabia

    - Military expenditure (2017): $69.4 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 30.4% (#2 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $2,107 (#4 among countries)

    The shifts in power and Saudi Arabia's leadership structure that have taken place since 2015 have led to a realignment of the country's priorities, evidenced by the Kingdom's military involvement in several conflicts in the Middle East in attempts to assert dominance in the region against regional enemy Iran. Inside its borders, the military helps negotiate tensions between the Sunni and Shia Muslim sects and fight against extremist groups. The country's involvement in a devastating civil war in Yemen has received worldwide attention and condemnation, especially following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • #2. China
    50/ Hung Chung Chi // Shutterstock

    #2. China

    - Military expenditure (2017): $228.2 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 6.1% (#56 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $165 (#36 among countries)

    It's difficult to determine exactly how much China spends on its military every year because it keeps the details and distribution of its spending secret and government figures don't match what experts believe the military is actually spending. The rapidly modernizing military is hugely important to China's push to become the leading power in the Asian Pacific, dominate on the global stage, and disrupt U.S. military hegemony. Within the country, police and paramilitary forces have assisted the government in the forced internment of around 1 million Uighur Muslims, an ethnic minority within the country.

  • #1. United States
    51/ Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

    #1. United States

    - Military expenditure (2017): $609.8 billion
    - Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2017): 8.8% (#34 among countries)
    - Military expenditure per capita (2017): $1,872 (#7 among countries)

    The U.S. spends far more on defense than any other country, with military spending accounting for around half of the federal budget. America is heavily involved in conflicts abroad and in the military support of its international allies, with some of its 1.3 million troops stationed in the Middle East and East Asia. This military spending has often been a subject of fierce political debate, with some U.S. lawmakers arguing that the country should cut back the Pentagon budget and limit involvement abroad, while others believe America should remain the world's 800-pound military gorilla.

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