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Global Military Spending Reached an All-Time High Last Year at $2.4 Trillion

The US was by far the largest military spender at $916 billion in 2023, up 2.3 percent compared to the previous year.

A U.S. Air Force aircraft kicks up a cloud of sand during the Eager Lion exercises on June 5, 2014, in Mudawara, Jordan.

New research published Monday shows that global military spending increased in 2023 for the ninth consecutive year, surging to $2.4 trillion as Russia’s assault on Ukraine and Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip helped push war-related outlays to an all-time high.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recorded military spending increases in every geographical region it examined last year, from Europe to Oceania to the Middle East. Last year’s global increase of 6.8% was the largest since 2009, SIPRI said.

The United States was by far the largest military spender at $916 billion in 2023, up 2.3% compared to the previous year. The next biggest spender was China, which poured an estimated $296 billion into its military last year — three times less than the U.S.

“Can we get some healthcare please, or maybe feed some of the 40 million+ Americans who can’t get enough food?” asked the watchdog group Public Citizen in response to SIPRI’s report, which found that the U.S. accounted for 37% of the world’s total military spending last year.

A separate analysis of U.S. military spending in 2023 found that 62% of the country’s federal discretionary budget went to militarized programs, leaving less than half of the budget for healthcare, housing, nutrition assistance, education, and other domestic priorities.

Together, SIPRI found, the top five biggest military spenders last year — the U.S., China, Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia — accounted for 61% of global military outlays.

“The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security,” Nan Tian, senior researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program, said in a statement. “States are prioritizing military strength but they risk an action-reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape.”

In the Middle East, military spending jumped by 9% last year — the highest annual growth rate in the past decade. Israel, which relies heavily on weapons imports from the U.S., spent 24% more on its military last year than in 2022, according to SIPRI, an increase fueled by the country’s devastating assault on Gaza.

SIPRI found that NATO’s 31 member countries dumped a combined $1.3 trillion into military expenditures in 2023, accounting for 55% of the global total.

U.S. military spending, which is poised to continue surging in the coming years, made up 68% of NATO’s 2023 total.

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