6 May 2016

Top 10 defense budgets from around the world

Dear Reader,

In the above chart, you can see the top 10 defense budgets from around the world. However, the total amount a country spends on defense doesn’t tell you everything about its military power. Nor does the percent of GDP a country spends on its military. But taken together, these two data points can tell you a lot. They give you a sense of how powerful a country is and tell you how committed a country is to national defense -- and how worried the country is about national security. 

As you would expect, the United States, as the leading world power, spends the most on defense in absolute terms, and a relatively large chunk of its GDP (over 3 percent). The only country even close to the United States in raw terms is China, and it spends less than half the amount the U.S. spends. Also, of the top 10 military spenders, China is one of the lowest in terms of GDP percentage, trailed only by Japan and Germany.

The third-ranked country should come as a surprise. It is Saudi Arabia, well ahead of Russia or the United Kingdom, and it spends over 13 percent of its GDP on military expenditures. That is a huge commitment and signals serious concerns.

The others on the list, except India, include five U.S. allies, none of which spend as much as a tenth of what the United States does, and added together it’s still less than half. Russia is number four, and despite spending 5.4 percent of its GDP on defense, in absolute terms it only spends 11 percent of the total military expenditures of the United States.

Who’s not in the top 10? Iran and Israel, both of which are regarded as Middle Eastern powers, but do not rank with the big boys.

As we said, this doesn’t tell you about whether they have the right weapons, the right training or the right morale, all of which are vital. But it tells you a great deal. 

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