Military spending surges worldwide amid war in Ukraine, tensions in Asia

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) visits an exhibition displaying destroyed Russian military vehicles on Thursday in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of NATO
1 of 5 | NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) visits an exhibition displaying destroyed Russian military vehicles on Thursday in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of NATO | License Photo

April 24 (UPI) -- Military spending surged across the globe last year to more than $224 trillion, with the war in Ukraine triggering the sharpest increase in defense budgets throughout Europe since the waning days of the Cold War, according to new research.

The nearly 4% rise in global military spending in 2022 was largely due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and increasing tensions throughout Asia, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a study published Monday.


The United States, China and Russia led the world in military expenditures last year, accounting for 56% of total defense spending, while Europe increased military spending by more than 13%, primarily to shore up security against an emboldened Russian army.

Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, several European nations immediately increased military spending, while other states took steps that anticipated bigger defense budgets over the next decade.


"The invasion of Ukraine had an immediate impact on military spending decisions in Central and Western Europe," said Diego Lopes da Silva, a senior researcher with SIPRI's Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program. "As a result, we can reasonably expect military expenditure in Central and Western Europe to keep rising in the years ahead."

Europe's collective urgency to level up militarily amounted to the steepest annual increase in war spending in at least three decades, with Central and Western Europe shelling out $345 billion in 2022, the study said.

Throughout Europe, military spending has surpassed levels last seen in 1989 -- when the Berlin Wall fell -- and was 30% higher than in 2013.

"The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world," said Nan Tian, another senior researcher with SIPRI. "States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future."

Throughout 2022, military spending increased by more than 36% in Finland, 27% in Lithuania, 12% in Sweden and 11% in Poland, the study says.

Over the same time, Russia increased its military spending by an estimated 9.2% to more than $86 billion -- which amounted to 4.1% of Russia's GDP in 2022, up from 3.7% of GDP the year before.


"The difference between Russia's budgetary plans and its actual military spending in 2022 suggests the invasion of Ukraine has cost Russia far more than it anticipated," said Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, who serves as director of SIPRI's Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program.

Ukraine spent $44 billion on its military in 2022, which was 640% more than its defense budget before the invasion -- reflecting the biggest-ever increase in military expenditures for any country in a single year, according to the report.

The financial burden of the war and damage to Ukraine's economy accounted for 34% of the country's GDP in 2022, the report said.

The United States ranked first in the world in 2022 for overall military spending at $877 billion, which accounted for 39% of total global military spending and three times more than China, which ranked second with $292 billion in military expenditures.

China's military budget in 2022 was 4.2% higher than the previous year and has grown by more than 60% since 2013.

Japan increased military spending by 5.9% to $46 billion, or 1.1% of GDP, which was the country's biggest jump in defense spending since 1960.

The United States also provided $19.9 billion in assistance to Ukraine throughout 2022, which was the largest package of military aid to benefit a single country in more than 30 years.


"The increase in the USA's military spending in 2022 was largely accounted for by the unprecedented level of financial military aid it provided to Ukraine," Tian said. "Given the scale of U.S. spending, even a minor increase in percentage terms has a significant impact on the level of global military expenditure."

Last week, the United States pledged equipment for Ukraine amounting to $325 million, including ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, precision aerial bombs, TOW guided missile systems, anti-armor weapons systems, anti-tank mines and demolition munitions. The assistance package comes on the heels of a $2.6 billion military aid package announced by the White House earlier this month.

The military spending report comes as Ukraine is set to join NATO this summer after Finland officially became a member of the global military alliance in early April, angering Moscow by doubling NATO's shared border with Russia.

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