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Visualizing Military Spending by Country - Which Countries Dominate the Globe?

The defense industry is one of the largest in the world. Nearly every country sets aside a large portion of their federal budget for military expenditures, which can have a major impact on their economies. 

It’s breathtaking to see that the United States and China account for nearly half of the world’s military spending! To see the effects of military spending on the world’s economy, let’s take a look at military expenditures around the world.
military spending by country

  • Global spending on defense hit $1.78 trillion in 2018, up 2.6% on the previous year
  • At $649B, the U.S. has the highest military spending in the entire world. This is more than double the next highest-spending country (China).
  • China and the United States account for almost half of the world’s military spending
  • Yet, India has over twice as many armed forces as the U.S.
  • China even has twice the number of armed forces as the U.S.
  • Haiti has the lowest military expenses at just $79,691, and no armed forces
  • The bottom 5 countries for military personnel combined have less than some U.S. brigades

Using data from The World Bank, which provides data and analysis on a variety of topics for countries around the world, we have compiled the numbers for armed forces personnel and military expenditures for countries across the globe. The graphic doesn’t include countries that haven’t made these available to The World Bank.

The graphic used above illustrates the military expenditures and armed forces personnel for most of the world’s countries. Military expenses are represented by the size of each country’s circle with personnel represented by the color of each circle’s outer ring.

This visualization lets us see total military spending around the world as well as the relationship between military expenses and armed forces personnel.

Countries With Highest Military Spending

1. United States: $649B
2. China: $250B
3. Saudi Arabia: 67.6B
4. India: $66.5B
5. France: $63.8B

Countries With Lowest Military Spending

1. Haiti: $79.7K
2. Cabo Verde: $10.7M
3. The Gambia: $11.5M
4. Liberia: $15.8M
5. Timor-Leste: $20.6M

Largest Armed Forces Personnel

1. India: 3,031,000
2. China: 2,695,000
3. Russia: 1,454,000
4. United States: 1,359,000
5. Pakistan: 936,000

Smallest Armed Forces Personnel

1. Haiti: 0
2. Seychelles: 0
3. The Gambia: 1,000
4. Cabo Verde: 1,000
5. Luxembourg: 2,000

Countries around the world continue to dedicate huge portions of their budgets to military spending. Still, the U.S. maintains the highest military budget in the world. Though President Donald Trump has announced his intentions to decrease military spending in the future, the new U.S. federal budget would increase military spending if approved.

While the U.S. spends nearly double on its military as the next highest country, there are still several countries that spend billions on their militaries. 71 of the 146 countries in this dataset spent over $1 billion on their militaries in 2018. This isn’t limited to countries with small militaries either. Norway’s armed personnel, for example, totals 23,000. Yet, Norway spent over $7 billion on its military last year.

With increased military spending in countries across the world, it’s no wonder that the defense industry continues to thrive. While countries like the U.S. plan to decrease military spending going forward, it’s clear that defense is a top priority for many countries around the world.

By examining the data found in the .visual above, we can have a better understanding of how military spending impacts the global economy.

Have any thoughts on this subject? Feel free to comment below. We love to hear feedback from our readers.


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