Military Expenditures of Countries, and Sustainable Peace and Security that cannot be achieved

In this study, based on data provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), countries which spend more than 10 billion US dollars annually on military requirements will be revealed, and the information obtained will be evaluated in the context of sustainable peace and security on global level.

 Number CountryMilitary expenditure (Million, ABD Dollar)Military expenditure by country as percentage of GDP, (%)
6Saudi Arabia575198.4
10South Korea457352.8

Source: SIPRI (2021). Military expenditure by country, in constant (2019) US$ m., 1988-2020.; SIPRI. (2021) Military expenditure by country as percentage of gross domestic product, 1988-2020.  (The chart was produced by the author, using the cited sources.)

According to SIPRI’s data, as of 2020, countries, which spend more than 10 billion US dollars annually on military requirements, their places in the world ranking, the amount of military expenditures, and the ratio of military expenditures to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are given in the chart above. The dispersion of the countries with the highest military expenditures by region is as follows:

RegionNumber of CountriesCountries
North America2USA, Canada
Asia-Pacific8China, India, Japan, S. Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, Pakistan
Europe8UK, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Netherlands
Middle East3Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran
South America1Brazil

Since it is not possible to distinguish the regions with very sharp lines throughout the world, the countries in the specified regions are written in the chart. Due to no country in the African continent, home to 55 countries, can reach 10 billion US dollars annually in military expenditure, the African continent is not included in this chart; from South America, it is possible to see only one country, Brazil, which ranks 15th in the world. North America, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, and Europe stand out as the regions with the highest military spending. It should be also noted that data of North Korea, located in the Asia-Pacific region, could not be reached.

In the chart, it is seen that the USA, which holds the first place with its military expenditure of more than 778 billion dollars, has made military expenditures exceeding 3 times that of China, just behind USA in the ranking. In other words, the USA spends more than eleven countries which come after it, on military expenditure.

In this chart, the number of countries with a ratio of military expenditure to GDP greater than 2.5% is nine. It is noteworthy that the military expenditure ratios of the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Singapore and Pakistan are quite high compared to their GDPs. Another issue that should be emphasized is the fact that countries with high GDP allocate significant resources for military expenditures, even though their military expenditure ratios are low compared to their GDPs, due to their high GDPs.

Although using of force or threatening to using of force in international disputes is prohibited with the status of the UN established in 1945, except for self-defense and participation in UN Security Council resolutions, it is seen that the military expenditures of the countries are quite high beyond meeting of these situations. The high military expenditure of a country will not only indicate that the threat perception of that country has increased, but also shows the potential of the relevant country to create threat. In addition, this rate of armament, despite the prohibition of war by the UN status, should be also considered as an indication that humanity has not been successful enough to achieve sustainable peace. The crises, conflicts and wars experienced confirm this claim. For instance, only in the African continent, armed conflicts took place in 33 African countries after the Cold War between 1991 and 2008. Violent conflicts seen in 34 countries in the Sub-Sahara of the African continent in 2012 may be given as additional example from Africa (Karagul and Arslan, 2014).

At this point, it is necessary to remind a significant issue the great powers trying to shape the world. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine War has once again demonstrated that sustainable peace and security cannot be achieved at the global and regional level only with financial or material capacity. The powers trying to shape the world have to understand that they have to develop new approaches towards establishing an international order on the axis of common values, as well as material capacity. Otherwise, the arms race stemming from the mutual threat perceptions of the countries -sometimes very far away from objectivity- will continue in an endless cycle and humanity will continue to consume its energy and hope for sustainable peace in advantage of the potent who dominate the arms industry.

After the tanks that made the soldiers laugh with their tractor-like designs seen on the battlefield during the World War I, missiles with nuclear warheads that can be used intercontinental, and weapon systems with a 100% hit rate with computer support were reached in the last century. Undersea, surface, land, air and space turned into operational areas. By 2020, the amount of military spending worldwide has reached approximately two trillion US dollars. Humanity, which has come a long way in the development of the arms industry, should also make more efforts for conflict resolution and reconciliation. In this context, the issue that should be reminded with the Russia-Ukraine war is to find an answer to the question of how armament can be brought under control around the world, before it’s too late.


 Karagul, S. and Arslan, I. (2014).  Continental Approach to Peace and Security Building in Africa: African Peace and Security Architecture. Security Strategies. Year: 10, Issue: 19. Istanbul:  Institute of Strategic Studies.

SIPRI. (2021). Military expenditure by country as percentage of gross domestic product, 1988-2020.

SIPRI. (2021). Military expenditure by country, in constant (2019) US$ m., 1988-2020. 

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