Global military expenditure hits record highs in boon for arms traders

A damaged Russian tank
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Global military spending has hit record highs. As ever, the main beneficiaries are arms firms. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that 2022 military spending saw a new high of $2240bn. The US, Russia, and China were the biggest spenders, making up 56% of the total:

World military spending grew for the eighth consecutive year in 2022… By far the sharpest rise in spending (+13 per cent) was seen in Europe and was largely accounted for by Russian and Ukrainian spending.

Ukraine and tension in Asia had shaped states’ decision making, the report warned:

However, military aid to Ukraine and concerns about a heightened threat from Russia strongly influenced many other states’ spending decisions, as did tensions in East Asia.

Dire warning

SIPRI’s senior expenditure researcher Dr Nan Tian said the spending showed how dangerous the world was becoming:

The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world.

Indeed, states seem to see little option but to opt for a war footing:

Read on...

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States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future.

Outside the big three of Russia, China, and the US, Scandinavian and Eastern European countries in particular hiked their defence spending:

Some of the sharpest increases were seen in Finland (+36 per cent), Lithuania (+27 per cent), Sweden (+12 per cent) and Poland (+11 per cent).

Finland is of particular interest because of its recent design to join NATO. In doing so it vastly extended the alliance’s border with Russia, and added a substantial troop increase to NATO forces.

Cold war levels

Spending on this level exceeds records set during the later years of the Cold War, SIPRI reported:

Military expenditure by states in Central and Western Europe totalled $345 billion in 2022. In real terms, spending by these states for the first time surpassed that in 1989, as the cold war was ending, and was 30 per cent higher than in 2013.

Outside Europe, Japan and China’s spending also soared to levels not seen since the late 1980s as the two face off – with Japan backed by the US:

The combined military expenditure of countries in Asia and Oceania was $575 billion. This was 2.7 per cent more than in 2021 and 45 per cent more than in 2013, continuing an uninterrupted upward trend dating back to at least 1989.

The UK was the highest spender in its region, lavishing $68.5 billion on the military, of which “an estimated $2.5 billion (3.6 per cent) was financial military aid to Ukraine”.

Taken as a whole, NATO members splashed $1,232 billion in 2022. That’s up 0.9% from 2021.

And once again, the US topped the spending charts. It accounted for the largest single portion of global military spending:

The United States remains by far the world’s biggest military spender. US military spending reached $877 billion in 2022, which was 39 per cent of total global military spending and three times more than the amount spent by China, the world’s second largest spender.

War economy

The ultimate winners when it comes to defence spending are not the public, in whose name these vast sums are lavished on war. It’s the arms firms and defence firms who making a killing. In the case of the UK, our vast spending comes amid a cost of living crisis.

It’s high time for a frank and honest debate about what real human security looks like. Filling the coffers of arms firms is unlikely to deliver any sort of stability. That is, except maybe for CEOs and shareholders of the likes of Raytheon, BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/armyinform, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY 4.0.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Jobs are jobs, and trade unions here in the UK welcome boosts to spending on weapons so that there are more members of this unionised workforce. The killing of women, children and men is mostly out of sight, out of mind, so it doesn’t affect the consciences of the thousands of well-paid British people, enjoying strangely respectable careers building weapons to slaughter civilians and conscripts in faraway countries about which they care not at all.

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