2010 spending: $37 billion (estimated)
Change 2001-10: -5.8% (est.)
Share of GDP: 1.8% (est.)
Italy's defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, arrives for parliamentary debate April 5.
Italy spent the 10th greatest amount on the military in 2010. Its 5.8% decline in military spending since 2001 is the greatest decrease among all the countries on this list. One reason may be that the number of volunteer troops is being cut, according to an Italian nonprofit organization, the Istituto Affari Internazionali. Italy’s defense budget is expected to be cut further this year to reduce the country’s debt.
2010 spending: $41.3 billion
Change 2001-10: 54.3%
Share of GDP: 2.7%
India spent the fifth largest amount on their military among all the Asian countries and the ninth largest in the world. The country underwent the largest absolute decrease in military spending from 2009 to 2010, spending $1 billion less than it had a year before. This decrease will likely not amount to much in the long run because in February India increased its defense spending by 11.6%. This was undertaken largely in response to the growing military strength of China and Pakistan.
2010 spending: $45.2 billion (est.)
Change 2001-10: -2.7% (est.)
Share of GDP: 1.3% (est.)
Although Germany has one of the world’s largest military budgets, its military spending as a percentage of GDP, at about 1.3%, is not especially high compared with other countries. It is the second-smallest percentage, in fact, among the countries on this list. Spending in 2010 decreased 1.3%, after the country’s Defense Ministry recommended Germany close several army bases and cut the number of troops from 250,000 to 180,000.
7. Saudi Arabia
2010 spending: $45.2 billion
Change 2001-10: 63%Share of GDP: 10.4%
Saudi Arabia’s level of defense spending is all the more impressive when one considers the size of the country’s economy. The $45.2 billion the country spent in 2010 was 10.4% of the country’s GDP. That percentage is more than double that of any other country on this list. Saudi Arabia also underwent the largest increase in military spending from 2009 to 2010, 4%. It had the largest absolute increase in the Middle East, as well, at $1.6 billion.
2010 spending: $54.5 billion
Change 2001-10: -1.7% (est.)
Share of GDP: 1%
U.S. military aid to Japan
Japanese and American officials mark the end of Operation Tomodachi, which means "friend" in Japanese.
Japan has kept its military expenditures at about 1% of GDP since 1967. As a result, the amount spent on defense turns on the strength of the economy. While military spending in the entire East Asia region has increased by more than 55% over the last decade, Japan’s has decreased by 1.7%, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
2010 spending: $58.7 billion (est.)
Change 2001-10: 82.4%
Share of GDP: 4% (est.)
Although Russian military spending decreased 1.4% from 2009 to 2010, it increased 82.4% over the entire decade. According to the BBC, Russia has plans to spend $650 billion on defense between now and 2020. According to Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, this money would be used to modernize the country’s armed forces. It currently relies heavily on a nuclear arsenal built during the Cold War.
2010 spending: $59.3 billion
Change 2001-10: 3.3%
Share of GDP: 2.3%
While France’s military spending increased 3.3% over the past decade, it decreased a stunning 8.4% from 2009 to 2010. This decrease, which is by far the largest on our list, is mostly the result of the global economic crisis. The crisis was severe in Europe and hit France especially hard. This has caused the government under Nicolas Sarkozy to make large cuts to rein in the deficit.
3. United Kingdom
2010 spending: $59.6 billion
Change 2001-10: 21.9%
Share of GDP: 2.7%
The U.K., home base of defense contractor BAE Systems, surpassed France in the amount spent on its military in 2010. Despite growth of 21.9% in spending over the decade, military expenditures dropped 0.8% from 2009 to 2010. This amount will most likely decrease more in 2011. In late 2010, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the country would be making defense cuts, including cutting 17,000 troops, to help bring down debt. The country will instead focus more on special forces, which includes counterterrorism units.
2010 spending: $119 billion (est.)
Change 2001-10: 189%
Share of GDP: 2.1% (est.)
China spent the second greatest amount on the military in 2010, and that amount is growing quickly. From 2001 to 2010, the country’s military expenditures increased 189%. This is more than double the amount spent by any country on this list. Weak economic performance in 2009 kept the 2009-10 increase to only 3.8%. Spending in 2011 will increase by 12.7%, according to the BBC. It should be noted, however, that many analysts believe China’s defense spending is higher than the country reports.
1. United States
2010 spending: $698 billion
Change 2001-10: 81.3%
Share of GDP: 4.8%The United States — home to such defense-contracting giants as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics — spent just under $700 billion on its military in 2010, more than all the other countries on this list combined. The proportion of GDP that goes to the Pentagon has risen from 3.1% in 2001 to an estimated 4.8% in 2010. This is the highest among countries with reliable military spending data outside of the Middle East. Even with the country’s large budget deficit, military spending seems to be untouchable in the political realm. As the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s report says: “President Obama’s FY2012 budget announced a 5-year freeze on non-security-related discretionary expenditure, but military spending, along with other security spending such as intelligence and Homeland Security, is exempt.”