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Global military spending hits record high amid war in Ukraine

(NewsNation) — Total global military spending hit a record $2.24 trillion last year amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising tension in East Asia, according to a new report released Monday.

Across the world, military spending rose by 3.7% in 2022 after adjusting for inflation, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found.

The uptick was especially pronounced in Europe, where military expenditures spiked 13% — primarily driven by the conflict in Ukraine. It’s the largest annual increase in at least 30 years.

“The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an
increasingly insecure world,” Dr. Nan Tian, senior researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure
and Arms Production Programme said in a statement.

The U.S., China and Russia led the way and accounted for 56% of all military spending worldwide.

Last year, the U.S. spent a record $877 billion, a 0.7% increase from 2021 after adjusting for inflation. That increase is largely attributed to U.S. military aid to Ukraine, which totaled almost $20 billion in 2022, SIPRI found.

Though the U.S. consistently spends more on its military than any other country, experts say the total dollar amount is just one part of the story. When considered as a proportion of GDP, military spending has actually been trending downward for decades.

“What you see over time is that although the total amounts might be going up, the burden has been going down because economies have been growing faster than spending on the military,” said Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

At the height of the Vietnam War, U.S. military spending was around 9% of GDP. Last year, the military accounted for 3.5% of GDP, which was unchanged from the year prior.

But due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and rising tensions with China, that could be set to change.

While supporting Ukraine’s army, defense officials have learned about vulnerabilities in the United States’ own military-industrial base.

A recent New York Times report found the U.S. has sent Ukraine so many Stinger missiles from its own stocks that it would take 13 years at recent production levels to replace them.

“Building larger inventories and being able to surge production are two things that are widely accepted as lessons learned from the conflict (in Ukraine),” said Cancian.

Now, the Biden administration is asking Congress for $842 billion for the Pentagon in the 2024 budget year — the largest request since U.S. forces were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The spending path would put the military’s annual budget over the $1 trillion threshold in just a matter of years.

The increase comes in direct response to China’s surging military budget, which has gone up for 28 consecutive years.

Along with the world’s biggest standing army, China has the world’s largest navy and recently launched its third aircraft carrier. 

In March, China announced a 7.2% increase in its defense budget, taking it to $224 billion — roughly double the figure from a decade ago. Though, as SIPRI’s latest report shows, China often understates its actual spending.

A recent analysis by CSIS found the U.S. would run out of long-range anti-ship missiles within one week in a war against China.

With its new budget, the Pentagon intends to load up on advanced missiles, space defense and modern jets. The military also plans to modernize its air, space and nuclear weapons.