Ukraine War Helped Push World Military Spending to 35-Year High, Study Says

Ukraine War Helped Push World Military Spending to 35-Year High, Study Says

The world spent more on military costs and weapons in 2023 than it had in 35 years, driven in part by the war in Ukraine and the threat of an expanded Russian invasion, according to an independent analysis released on Monday.

The study, by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, concluded that global military spending reached $2.4 trillion last year — a 6.8 percent increase from 2022. Growing tensions in Asia and across the Middle East also contributed to the rise, analysts found, while the United States alone spent $916 billion — more than one-third of the total — as the world’s largest military spender and weapons supplier.

“The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security,” said Nan Tian, a senior researcher at the institute, which has tracked military expenditures since at least 1988.

He described an “increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape.”

Ukraine, in its first full year of war with Russia, devoted $64.8 billion to its military in 2023. That accounted for 58 percent of the government’s overall spending last year and 37 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Only seven other countries spent more on military and defense costs than Ukraine in 2023, analysts found.

One was Russia, which Mr. Tian estimated spent $109 billion last year — more than any other country except the United States and China. That projection was based on the $75 billion that Moscow announced last September it had already spent for 2023, Mr. Tian said, who added that Russia’s military spending could rise to $127 billion this year, depending on the value of the ruble.

Either way, and despite the secrecy and disinformation surrounding Moscow’s defense investments, the institute concluded that Russia had spent about 16 percent of its total government spending, or 5.9 percent of its gross domestic product, on its military in 2023 — the highest since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ukraine has so far fended off Russia with the help of American and European military aid that in 2023 amounted to at least $35 billion in weapons and other materiel that has already been delivered. (The Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which also tracks military aid to Ukraine, puts the number at more than $100 billion from Canada, Europe and the United States since February 2022, but that includes support that has been committed and not yet delivered.)

At least some American aid to Ukraine includes funding to bolster NATO allies, American bases in Europe and domestic arms manufacturers that are replenishing weapons and ammunition stockpiles largely depleted in the West’s defense against Russia. Of a $60 billion aid package for Ukraine that the House of Representatives passed this past weekend, for example, at least $37 billion is expected to go to American weapons producers. In all, the Biden administration says it has given Ukraine more than $44 billion in security assistance since February 2022.

The war has also spurred European countries to step up military spending, which increased last year by about 16 percent across the continent, to $588 billion, according to the institute’s report. While some of the money went to Ukraine, leaders across Europe raised spending on their own national forces, most significantly in Eastern Europe, where military spending increased by 31 percent last year.

Twenty of NATO’s 32 member nations are expected to spend at least 2 percent of their G.D.P. on national defense this year; a decade ago, only three hit that benchmark.

“The cost of insecurity, the cost of a Russian victory, is far greater than any saving we could make now,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, told arms industry executives last week in Brussels.

“The cost of facing multiple threats and conflicts without being prepared is far greater than we can afford,” she said. “This is why it is time for Europe to step up on defense and security.”

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