World military spending reaches all-time high of $2.24 trillion

Surge in spending reflects Russia-Ukraine war and ‘increasingly insecure world’, according to leading think tank.

A Ukrainian soldier looking out of a tank on the front line in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
The full-scale invasion of Ukraine has helped drive the surge in defence spending [Libkos/AP Photo]

World military spending reached an all-time high of $2.24 trillion in 2022, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuelled a sharp jump in military spending across Europe, according to a leading defence think tank.

Global spending rose for the eighth consecutive year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on Monday in its annual report on global military expenditure.

There was a 13 percent rise in Europe, the steepest in at least 30 years.

SIPRI said most of that was linked to Russia and Ukraine, but other countries also stepped up military spending in response to perceived Russian threats.

“The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world,” Nan Tian, senior researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future.”

Moscow invaded and seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, and backed separatist rebels in the country’s east before it began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

The moves have spread alarm among other countries that neighbour Russia or were once part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, with Finland’s spending up 36 percent and Lithuania’s military spending up by 27 percent, according to SIPRI.

In April, Finland, whose border with Russia stretches some 1,340km (833 miles), became the 31st member of NATO. Sweden, which has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, also wants to join.

“While the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 certainly affected military spending decisions in 2022, concerns about Russian aggression have been building for much longer,” said Lorenzo Scarazzato, researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “Many former Eastern bloc states have more than doubled their military spending since 2014, the year when Russia annexed Crimea.”

The think tank said military spending in Ukraine surged more than six times to $44bn in 2022, the highest single-year increase in a country’s military expenditure ever recorded in SIPRI data.

As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), military spending surged to 34 percent in 2022, compared with 3.2 percent the year before.

Russian military spending grew by an estimated 9.2 per cent in 2022, to about $86.4bn, according to SIPRI. That was equivalent to 4.1 per cent of Russia’s 2022 GDP, up from 3.7 percent in 2021.

The United States remained the world’s largest military spender — up 0.7 percent to $877bn in 2022 — which was 39 percent of total global military spending. The increase was largely driven by “the unprecedented level of financial military aid it provided to Ukraine,” SIPRI’s Nan Tian said.

US financial military aid to Ukraine totalled $19.9bn in 2022, according to the think tank.

China remained the world’s second-largest military spender, allocating an estimated $292bn in 2022. This was 4.2 percent more than in 2021 and represents the 28th consecutive annual increase.

Meanwhile, Japan spent $46bn on the military in 2022, a rise of 5.9 percent from the previous year. SIPRI said it was the highest level of Japanese military spending since 1960.

Japan and China led military spending in Asia and Oceania, which amounted to $575bn. SIPRI said military expenditure in the region had been rising since at least 1989.

Tensions in East Asia have risen over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. China also lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a major maritime trading route, parts of which are also claimed by countries including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Japan and China are also embroiled in a dispute over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, which lie northeast of Taiwan.

Tokyo also has a long-running dispute with Moscow over the Northern Territories, which lie northeast of Hokkaido and were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Russia calls them the Kuril Islands.

Source: Al Jazeera