World military expenditure stood at $2240 billion in 2022, an all time record high.
Global military expenditure fell in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, then rose from 1999 to 2010, fell slightly in the next few years and then saw a steady year on year increase from 2013 to 2022, increasing by a total of 19% during the decade to 2022.
2021 to 2022 saw the the sharpest rise, with an increase of 3.7%, fuelled largely by the War on Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military expenditure rose by 640% in 2022 to $44 billion, compared to a previous (approximate) $6 billion a year before the Russian invasion. That $44 billion does not include military aid from other countries, estimated to be around the $30 billion mark in 2022.
Russia’s military expenditure rose by almost 10% to nearly $90 billion in 2022, making it the world’s third largest spender on the military.
Military Expenditure as usual
While the war in Ukraine has obviously had a massive impact in Ukraine as military expenditure now accounts for a third of its GDP (compared to 2.5% in the United Kingdom for example), as well as in Russia and many other nations through their giving military aid to Ukraine, when we look at things globally the impact of the war on Ukraine on overall expenditure has been relatively small.
Granted, the increase for last year is greater than previous years, but it’s not a massive break with the trend of steadily increasing military expenditure over the last two decades.
The worrying thing is (at least it’s worrying if you are a fan of world peace) is that in terms of overall military expenditure, the increase in expenditure caused by the war in Ukraine is really just a drop in the ocean: around a $100 billion increase is not a lot compared to a total usual annual spend of $2200 billion.
The world’s biggest military spenders
The United States remains the largest military spender, having spent an astronomical $877 billion on it military in 2022, accounting for 39% of the total global spend in 2022.
China comes second on the list, but is a long way behind America with an annual expenditure of $292 billion, a third less than America’s expenditure.
Russia is third in the war league tables, but even with the war on Ukraine it spends three times less than China (1/10th that of America), at just under $100 billion annually, and slightly more than Saudi Arabia and India who come in fourth and fifth positions.
The United Kingdom has the highest military expenditure in Europe at almost $70 billion in 2022, and at 2.3% of its GDP, it spends twice as much on its military proportionately compared to most other European nations except for France.
Relevance to A-Level Sociology
The War in Ukraine has dominated the news throughout 2022 and the conflict has severely retarded development in the country both in the short term because of loss of life, injury, emigration and destruction of infrastructure, but also in the long term as tens of billions of dollars have been spent on the conflict, diverted from what could have been positive investment in social development in health, employment and education, for example.
But stepping back from the immediate shock of this particular conflict and just looking at it in terms of wider military expenditure we are reminded of the huge sums we spend globally on constant preparedness for war, and even Russia is something of a minor player in terms of its own expenditure, spending three times less than China and 10 times less than the United States.
The United States spends so much on its military that it has been able to provide billions in aid to Ukraine without it being a significant dent in its military budget.
If either one of those two countries decides to wage war against a lesser power in the future, they can dwarf the harm Russia has done in Ukraine, moreover, imagine how much good even a tenth of global military expenditure could do if it were devoted to positive development: $200 billion more on global health, education and employment initiatives could transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Instead we choose to spend more than $2 trillion on being prepared to kill each other.
It’s a stark reminder of just how far off global peace and enlightenment we are, and how small global development agendas are compared to the military agendas of the world’s largest nation states.
This material is mainly relevant to the Globalisation and Global Development module, which is sometimes taught as part of the second year in A-level sociology (AQA specification).
War and Conflict are the main things which prevent positive economic and social development, and this update is a depressing reminder that in terms of military expenditure the world seems to be getting less peaceful.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2022) Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2022.