Global military spending soars

6 May 2024 Maria Dabbas –

Global military spending has hit an all-time high, a sign that world politics increasingly is being shaped by heightened imperialist tensions.

Military expenditures reached US$2.4 trillion last year, according to estimates in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute annual report, released in April. The figure is a 7 percent increase on 2022—the biggest single year jump in at least 15 years.

It also marks the first time that military spending increased simultaneously in all five major geographical areas: Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, and Asia and Oceania. Every pocket of the world is embroiled in geopolitical and military competition.

“The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security”, Nan Tian, a senior researcher at the institute, which is regarded as the global authority on military expenditures, said in a media release. “States are prioritizing military strength but they risk an action-reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape.”

Some countries are spending much more than others, of course. Most of the outlays are accounted for by a very small number of states. At the forefront is the US, whose military spending rose 2.3 percent to US$916 billion—almost 40 percent of the world total, far surpassing any other state. China, in second position, spent an estimated $296 billion, followed by Russia ($109 billion) and India ($84 billion). China’s spending is, however, one of the fastest growing, with an increase of 6 percent year on year.

When America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies are included (almost all of Europe plus Canada, Türkiye and the United Kingdom), the domination of the US-aligned bloc of states is even clearer. NATO members accounted for more than $1.3 trillion in military outlays in 2023—55 percent of the global total.

The Australian government is throwing itself into the arms race. Just this month, Defence Minister Richard Marles announced Labor’s National Defence Strategy, which contains a commitment to at least $750 billion in military spending over the next decade. This will increase military spending to 2.4 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product by 2034.

According to Marles, this spending is needed to “maintain our way of life in a much less certain region and world”. The nationalist platitude is hard to swallow at a time when the living and working conditions of most people in Australia are deteriorating.