Politics

US Accounts For 40% Of World's Defence Spending

The United States spent $738bn on defence in 2020, more than the next 15 top spenders combined.

The United States spent more on defence in 2020 than the next 15 top spending countries in the world combined, according to a new report.

The planned defence spending of the US was 40.3% of the world's total last year, amounting to $738bn.

It is equivalent to 3.55% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

In comparison, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)'s The Military Balance 2021 report revealed that the next highest-spender, China, invested $193.3bn in defence (11.9% of the world's total).

In terms of active military personnel, the US also consisted of a high percentage of the global total, with 1,388,100 troops.

That means that in 2020 nearly 6.7% of active troops in the world were American.

However, last year the US defence budget growth slowed – albeit just marginally – compared to 2019.

In fact, in 2020 it increased by 6.3%, in contrast to 6.6% in 2019.

US defence programmes with a request of at least $1bn include the F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft (Picture: MOD).

European NATO countries spending

The United Kingdom, which is in fourth place in the world behind the US, China and India ($64.1bn) spent $61.5bn in defence.

However, in the European context, the UK was the top spender and the country with the fifth-highest number of active military personnel, with nearly 150,000 units.

When looking at the European NATO members, the IISS report evidenced an overall increase in the proportion of GDP allocated to defence.

The percentage of GDP has risen from 1.25% levels in 2014 to 1.64% in 2020, a further increase to the 1.52% level of 2019.

These figures are still below the NATO recommended 2% GDP defence spending.

In several countries, including the UK, military personnel supported civilian authorities in the fight against COVID-19 in 2020 (Picture: MOD).

COVID-19 impact

The year 2020 was dominated by the news and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

All around the globe, troops were deployed to support civil authorities as they carried out COVID-19 relief efforts.

According to the Military Balance 2021, however, it will take "until 2022-23" to see the "full effect of governments' financial responses to the pandemic" and what they meant for defence.

However, the IISS report remarked that, as of November 2020, "most of the countries that had announced their 2021 budgets had maintained their defence allocations".

Cover image: PA.