(STACKER) – In the wake of World War II, 12 countries scattered throughout Europe and North America came together to form the North American Treaty Organization, a military alliance whose goal was to deter 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—and why NATO has not gotten involved in the Ukraine-Russia war.

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.

Stacker ranked the 50 countries spending the most on their military, based on estimates from 2020 data (released in 2022) from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute via The World Bank. The list provides a sweeping view of pressing conflicts around the world today.

It is 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.

Despite that lengthy definition, however, 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 the same expenses as another kind of spending. In addition, because some countries aren’t transparent about their military budgets, the data 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 clashes between Russia and Ukraine to counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East—and identifying, for better or worse, the nations with the most firepower.

One important note— NATO itself has a military budget, which all 30 member states contribute to. For the 2022 fiscal year, that budget is set at a little over $1.74 billion.

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#50. New Zealand

– Military expenditure (2020): $3.0 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#33 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $592 (#19 highest)

The Global Peace Index in 2021 ranked New Zealand as the second most peaceful country in the world.

The accolade came even as the country’s defense budget reached highs it hadn’t touched since the Cold War days. Most of its $3 billion budget is spent on military preparedness, although a small portion of spending is allocated to participating in UN peacekeeping missions and active deployments in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

#49. South Africa

– Military expenditure (2020): $3.2 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#40 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $53 (#44 highest)

Compared with other countries, South Africa spends very little on its military despite having the 26th most powerful military in the world. It 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 despite analysts warning for years that it faces serious challenges and potential decline.

#48. Czech Republic

– Military expenditure (2020): $3.3 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#37 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $304 (#29 highest)

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999. Since then, the country has been in frequent conflict with the military alliance over its failure to modernize its equipment quickly enough and its failure historically to reach 2% of GDP for military spending, although that is no longer the case.

The Eastern European nation has upheld its end of the bargain in terms of foreign military operations, fighting under NATO’s flag in countries from Afghanistan to Somalia.

#47. Austria

– Military expenditure (2020): $3.6 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 1% (#50 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $404 (#25 highest)

Historically a neutral country, Austria is not a member of NATO.  which means they are under no obligation to be involved in foreign conflicts, but it does have a law regarding mandatory conscription for all adult males. Its status is the result of Moscow, which conditioned Austria’s neutrality on its independence following the departure of Allied forces in 1955.

#46. Philippines

– Military expenditure (2020): $3.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 4% (#31 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $34 (#49 highest)

The largest-ever joint military exercises between soldiers from the Phillippines and U.S. commenced in late March of 2022 as part of a Biden-era strategy for the Indo-Pacific alliance. The alliance started with a 1951 mutual defense treaty and strengthened with a 1999 visiting forces agreement.

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#45. Malaysia

– Military expenditure (2020): $3.8 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 4% (#28 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $118 (#40 highest)

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.

#44. Finland

– Military expenditure (2020): $4.1 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#42 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $739 (#13 highest)

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.

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 spurred Finland to increase the number of troops in its reserve, improve its international relations, and spend more on weapons and resources.

#43. Egypt, Arab Rep.

– Military expenditure (2020): $4.5 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 5% (#26 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $44 (#47 highest)

Despite its deceivingly low placement on this list, Egypt actually has one of the largest military forces and weapons catalogs in all of North Africa and the Middle East.

The armed forces are an essential part of the country’s infrastructure, bound up in everything from awarding government contracts to filling civilian markets with affordable goods. Because the military’s focus is primarily handling matters at home, it’s been ill-prepared for conflict until very recently when Russia and France stepped in to offer external training and support, bringing enlisted soldiers and leadership up to snuff should an international conflict arise.

#42. Bangladesh

– Military expenditure (2020): $4.6 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 9% (#13 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $28 (#50 highest)

Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping missions around the globe, contributing forces 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.

#41. Chile

– Military expenditure (2020): $4.6 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 6% (#19 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $241 (#31 highest)

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.

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#40. Portugal

– Military expenditure (2020): $4.6 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 4% (#30 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $450 (#23 highest)

Mere decades after the end of their brutal colonial regime in Africa, Portuguese forces 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.

#39. Morocco

– Military expenditure (2020): $4.8 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 12% (#5 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $131 (#39 highest)

Morocco has occupied the territory of Western Sahara since 1975. The Kingdom built the second-longest defensive wall in history in order to keep the Polisario (a group advocating for independence) isolated. This led to tensions with Algeria, which supports independence in Western Sahara. Morocco’s close ties to the U.S. and Western European powers have provided the country with the support it needs.

#38. Denmark

– Military expenditure (2020): $5.0 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#43 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $849 (#11 highest)

Denmark has plans to increase its military spending to $229.7 million by 2023—a clear sign of its support for NATO. A relatively safe country, most of Denmark’s increased budget is aimed at improving cybersecurity to counter terrorist threats and possible aggression by Russia.

#37. Greece

– Military expenditure (2020): $5.3 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 5% (#22 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $495 (#20 highest)

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 four decades ago.

#36. Belgium

– Military expenditure (2020): $5.5 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 2% (#49 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $473 (#22 highest)

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.

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#35. Switzerland

– Military expenditure (2020): $5.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 2% (#46 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $660 (#15 highest)

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.

#34. Romania

– Military expenditure (2020): $5.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 6% (#20 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $297 (#30 highest)

Romania previously sent troops to support NATO and U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. Since then the country has faced problems a bit closer to home, namely its location in the strategically important Black Sea region. Romania and Russia, the latter of 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.

Romania in April 2022 came out in support of establishing new, permanent military bases to host American troops there in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

#33. Ukraine

– Military expenditure (2020): $5.9 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 9% (#15 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $134 (#38 highest)

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.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, which has galvanized a global response in support of Ukrainian troops and civilians. Efforts have included everything from arming and supporting Ukrainian soldiers to accepting Ukrainian refugees.

#32. Mexico

– Military expenditure (2020): $6.1 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 2% (#48 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $47 (#46 highest)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador proposed increasing the military’s budget as he kicked off his first term, seeing a strong military as necessary to quell the increased violence in Mexico 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.

#31. Sweden

– Military expenditure (2020): $6.5 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 2% (#45 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $623 (#17 highest)

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.

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#30. Oman

– Military expenditure (2020): $6.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 22% (#1 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $1,318 (#7 highest)

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 a 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.

#29. Kuwait

– Military expenditure (2020): $6.9 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 10% (#11 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $1,625 (#5 highest)

Kuwait, one of America’s allies in the Persian Gulf, 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.

#28. Iraq

– Military expenditure (2020): $7.0 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 8% (#16 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $174 (#37 highest)

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.

#27. Norway

– Military expenditure (2020): $7.1 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 4% (#32 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $1,322 (#6 highest)

Norway’s shared Arctic border with Russia is a source of concern for both the Norwegian military and the country’s allies. 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.

#26. Thailand

– Military expenditure (2020): $7.3 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 6% (#21 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $105 (#41 highest)

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.

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#25. Colombia

– Military expenditure (2020): $9.2 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 10% (#12 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $181 (#35 highest)

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 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.

#24. Indonesia

– Military expenditure (2020): $9.4 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 5% (#23 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $34 (#48 highest)

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.

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#23. Algeria

– Military expenditure (2020): $9.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 17% (#4 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $221 (#32 highest)

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 to hold onto its #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).

#22. Pakistan

– Military expenditure (2020): $10.4 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 17% (#3 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $47 (#45 highest)

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 early 2019. The military has also been a key ally in American counter-terrorism operations in the region.

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#21. Singapore

– Military expenditure (2020): $10.9 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 11% (#9 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $1,909 (#3 highest)

Despite its small size, Singapore has one of the most advanced militaries in Southeast 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.

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#20. Netherlands

– Military expenditure (2020): $12.6 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#36 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $721 (#14 highest)

The Dutch military shrank 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.

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#19. Poland

– Military expenditure (2020): $13.0 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 4% (#27 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $343 (#28 highest)

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.

#18. Iran, Islamic Rep.

– Military expenditure (2020): $15.8 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 12% (#7 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $188 (#34 highest)

Iran is unique in that it essentially has two militaries: a conventional armed forces, which is responsible for protecting the country’s borders and interests; and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, established in 1979  following the Iranian Revolution to protect the country’s Islamic republic political system.

In December 2021, the government announced it would be doubling the IRGC’s budget for the 2022 fiscal year, indicating increased interest in protecting the country’s political freedoms and ideologies. Generally speaking, Iran’s armies aren’t interested in offensive or peace-keeping missions, but rather focus all of their energy on ensuring its citizens are adhering to Islamic laws.

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#17. Spain

– Military expenditure (2020): $17.4 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#38 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $368 (#27 highest)

As a member of the European Union, NATO, and the UN, Span is engaged in a number of counter-terrorism and peacekeeping missions worldwide. A 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. Turkey

– Military expenditure (2020): $17.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 8% (#18 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $210 (#33 highest)

Because of its shared border, Turkey is heavily involved in Syria’s long and devastating civil war and 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.

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#15. Brazil

– Military expenditure (2020): $19.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#35 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $93 (#42 highest)

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.

#14. Israel

– Military expenditure (2020): $21.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 12% (#6 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $2,355 (#2 highest)

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.

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#13. Canada

– Military expenditure (2020): $22.8 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 2% (#44 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $599 (#18 highest)

After pressure from 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 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.

#12. Australia

– Military expenditure (2020): $27.5 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 5% (#25 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $1,072 (#8 highest)

China’s aggressive military actions in the South China Sea in 2019 put Australia’s military on watch, with the country voicing support for Japan’s increase in military spending because of rising threats in the region. Australia seems likely to increase military spending to 2% of GDP by the early 2020s, a goal that 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.

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#11. Italy

– Military expenditure (2020): $28.9 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#39 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $486 (#21 highest)

Unlike most countries on this list, Italy has actively worked to decrease its defense spending in recent years. The populist government in 2019 announced plans to slash half a billion dollars from the military’s budget 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.

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#10. Korea, Rep.

– Military expenditure (2020): $45.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 11% (#10 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $883 (#9 highest)

Given South Korea’s volatile neighboring countries, it should come as no surprise that the republic spends so much on its military. Much of the country’s military spending focuses on building up a stockpile of weapons (such as missiles, tactical communications systems, and rockets) that can be used as needed in response to direct action from other countries.

While South Korea’s military spending has consistently grown in recent years, it is also facing a looming manpower shortage as its population has shrunk in the last several decades.

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#9. Japan

– Military expenditure (2020): $49.1 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 2% (#47 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $391 (#26 highest)

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 decade. Former President Donald Trump was highly critical of Japan for its trade surplus with the U.S.

#8. France

– Military expenditure (2020): $52.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#34 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $783 (#12 highest)

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.

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.

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#7. Germany

– Military expenditure (2020): $52.8 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 3% (#41 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $634 (#16 highest)

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, former 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 had an impact on Germany’s ability to make good on the pledge.

#6. Saudi Arabia

– Military expenditure (2020): $57.5 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 22% (#2 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $1,652 (#4 highest)

The shifts in power and Saudi Arabia’s leadership structure since 2015 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, Saudi Arabia’s 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 received worldwide attention and condemnation, especially following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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#5. United Kingdom

– Military expenditure (2020): $59.2 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 4% (#29 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $881 (#10 highest)

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.

#4. Russian Federation

– Military expenditure (2020): $61.7 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 11% (#8 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $428 (#24 highest)

A stagnating Russian economy 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 in 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. The country’s late-February invasion of Ukraine and continued violence there has created turmoil throughout the region and calls to overthrow Putin or bring in NATO to end the conflict—even though doing so would likely invite World War III.

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#3. India

– Military expenditure (2020): $72.9 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 9% (#14 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $53 (#43 highest)

Much of India’s military budget 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 was stymied by inflation and other problems in the budget, making it more difficult to outpace China in the “arms race” on the Asian continent.

#2. China

– Military expenditure (2020): $252.3 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 5% (#24 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $179 (#36 highest)

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.

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#1. United States

– Military expenditure (2020): $778.2 billion
– Military expenditure as a % of general government expenditure (2020): 8% (#17 highest)
– Military expenditure per capita (2020): $2,362 (#1 highest)

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 across 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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