Global Cooperation

5 facts about global military spending

US soldiers take part in a NATO Saber Strike exercise in Latvia

US soldiers take part in a NATO Saber Strike exercise in Latvia Image: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Ariel Kastner
Head of Geopolitical Agenda and Communications, World Economic Forum
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Since its founding in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has convened members at important moments to reinforce partnership and address critical issues. The next gathering of heads of state and government takes place in Brussels from 11-12 July. The summit comes amid tensions over whether member countries are meeting domestic military spending targets. At the 2014 summit in Wales, NATO members made a “Defence Investment Pledge” to move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade (for those member states not already doing so).

Here are five facts about defence spending by NATO member countries, in a global context:

1. Global military spending is at its highest level since the Cold War. Combined global military expenditure is estimated to have reached $1.74 trillion in 2017 - the highest it has been since the end of the Cold War.

2. NATO military spending accounts for the slight majority of overall global expenditure. In 2017, total defence spending by NATO members was $900 billion. This accounted for 52% of overall global military spending.

3. NATO Europe and Canada expenditures have increased in the last three years. Since the Defence Investment Pledge in 2014, the combined military expenditure of NATO Europe and Canada has increased by approximately 5%.

Image: NATO, The Secretary General's Annual Report 2017

4. Five member countries are meeting 2014 NATO spending goals. Despite recent spending increases among some member countries, only five of the 29 are currently meeting the 2% spending goal: the US, Greece, the UK, Estonia and Poland.

Image: NATO, The Secretary General's Annual Report 2017

5. Russian military spending dropped in 2017, while US spending is unchanged. Russia’s 2017 military expenditure - $66.3 billion - was 20% lower than in 2016. This was the first annual decrease of Russian military spending since 1998. Military expenditure by the US was unchanged in 2017, at $610 billion - the highest in the world. This marked an end to a downward trajectory of US defence spending that had begun in 2010.

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Global CooperationGeo-Economics and Politics
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