Military spendingWorld military spending: Increases in the U.S., Europe, decreases in oil-exporting countries

Published 24 April 2017

Total world military expenditure rose to $1686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4 percent in real terms from 2015, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year.

Comparison of U.S. defense spending and the total of eleven other nations combined // Source:

SIPRI says that world military expenditure rose for a second consecutive year to a total of $1686 billion in 2016—the first consecutive annual increase since 2011 when spending reached its peak of $1699 billion (all percentage changes are expressed in real terms [constant 2015 prices]). Trends and patterns in military expenditure vary considerably between regions. Spending continued to grow in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. By contrast, spending fell in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East (based on countries for which data is available), South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The comprehensive annual update of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database is accessible from today at

The U.S. spending returns to growth; Saudi Arabia’s spending falls significantly
The United States remains the country with the highest annual military expenditure in the world. U.S. military spending grew by 1.7 percent between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion. Military expenditure by China, which was the second largest spender in 2016, increased by 5.4 percent to $215 billion, a much lower rate of growth than in previous years. Russia increased its spending by 5.9 percent in 2016 to $69.2 billion, making it the third largest spender. Saudi Arabia was the third largest spender in 2015 but dropped to fourth position in 2016. Spending by Saudi Arabia fell by 30 percent in 2016 to $63.7 billion, despite its continued involvement in regional wars. India’s military expenditure grew by 8.5 percent in 2016 to $55.9 billion, making it the fifth largest spender.

The growth in US military expenditure in 2016 may signal the end of a trend of decreases in spending, which resulted from the economic crisis and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. spending in 2016 remained 20 percent lower than its peak in 2010. “Despite continuing legal restraints on the overall US budget, increases in military spending were agreed upon by Congress,” said Dr. Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) program. “Future spending patterns remain uncertain due to the changing political situation in the USA.”

Increases in Europe linked to growing threat perceptions
Military expenditure in Western Europe rose for the second consecutive year and was up by 2.6 percent in 2016. There were spending increases in all but three countries in Western Europe. Italy recorded the most notable increase, with spending rising by 11 percent between 2015 and 2016.