The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has once again published its 2011 Yearbook, which includes information about world military spending. I didn't publish this list last year, but I'd like to make this something of an annual tradition. Toward that end, there's not much commentary this year, just the facts.
|Rank 2011 (2010)||Country||Spending ($b, MER)||Change, 2002–11 (%)||Share of GDP (%, estimate)a||World Share (%)||Spending ($b, PPP)b|
|1 (1)||United States||711||59||4.7||41||711|
|4 (3)||United Kingdom||62.7||18||2.6||3.6||57.5|
|Subtotal top 5||1051||61|
|7 (7)||Saudi Arabiac||48.5||90||8.7||2.8||58.8|
|Subtotal top 10||1288||74|
|12 (12)||South Korea||30.8||45||2.7||1.8||42.1|
|Subtotal top 15||1422||82|
|Spending figures are in US$, at current prices and exchange rates. Countries are ranked by military spending calculated using market exchange rates (MER). Figures for military spending calculated using purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates are also given.|
|a||The figures for national military expenditure as a share of GDP are based on estimates for 2011 GDP from the IMF World Economic Outlook database, September 2011.|
|b||The figures for military expenditure at PPP exchange rates are estimates based on the projected implied PPP conversion rates for each country from the IMF World Economic Outlook database, September 2011.|
|c||The figures for Saudi Arabia include expenditure on public order and safety and might be slight overestimates.|
At least in the case of China, I think there's a strong case that the spending figure in the right hand column is a more accurate one relative to the spending of the U.S. China has kept its currency undervalued to encourage exports, and the difference between the value it has and the value it ought to have is considerable, according to most trade experts in the West, at least. Which figure is better in other cases, I wouldn't want to hazard a guess.
One of the things to note here is that most of the countries that have been substantially increasing their spending are in Asia. China's spending increases are mostly due to its wish to not be dictated to by the United States and NATO. Russia's, I suspect, is a reaction to China's increased spending. India's undoubtedly is. China, India, and Russia have been rivals on the Asian continent for centuries. Now that their economies are expanding, more military spending seems inevitable. This represents a potential problem for the U.S. and Europe as well. It's one more reason that we should consider reducing our own expenditures.
What could China possibly have to worry about, you ask? Compare U.S. military spending to that of 2009. Even though our spending isn't increasing as fast as China's it's far larger, both in absolute terms and as a portion of our gross domestic product (GDP). As that LHD in the picture and all her sister ships demonstrate, we already have the ability to put substantial military force anywhere we feel the need in a matter of weeks. No other country in the world can do anywhere near as much. If you're a country like China, with desires to absorb Taiwan and with ongoing disputes over fishing rights and other maritime interests, it's pretty obvious that letting that imbalance continue is not in your best interests. So, China is expanding its military because we're expanding ours, and China's neighbors, who have their own security concerns, are following suit.
It never ceases to amaze me how much money and effort we put into this area. There is plenty of reason to believe that what we are buying isn't security. Often times, we are buying its opposite. As the looming arms race in Asia should attest, this is largely because the rest of the world has its own priorities, and they often both mirror and oppose ours.
UPDATE/Afterword: Just one more bit of analysis. Reading over what I wrote about our increased military spending in the second last paragraph, I realize there's something I need to emphasize:
The portion of our nation's GDP that's devoted to defense is increasing.
In 2009, that figure was 4.3 percent. In 2011, it was 4.7 percent. In a time when we face no real enemies, and have potential adversaries with whom we also have extensive business and trade, and are thus susceptible to negotiation on the issues that separate us, we are increasing the portion of our economy devoted to the military at an alarming rate, when we already outspend every other country in the world by a wide margin.