Military spending in Europe at its highest since the Cold War

European military spending at highest since Cold War


Military spending in Europe will rise again in 2022 to its level at the end of the Cold War, with a record increase for more than three decades boosted by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, according to a benchmark report released on Monday. 

All continents combined, military spending reached a new high of 2.24 trillion dollars last year, or 2.2% of global GDP, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

This is the eighth consecutive year of growth for military investment worldwide.

“They are pulled by the war in Ukraine, which is pushing up European budgets, but also by the unresolved and growing tensions in East Asia” between China on the one hand and, on the other, the United States and its Asian allies, underlines to AFP the researcher Nan Tian, ​​one of the co-authors of the study.

The Old Continent spent, after deduction of inflation, 13% more for its armies in a year marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the report.

This is both the strongest growth recorded in more than 30 years, and the return – in constant dollars – at the level of expenditure in 1989, the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“This is unheard of since the end of the Cold War,” said Mr. Tian.

War in Ukraine

On its own, the Ukraine increased its spending sevenfold, jumping to $44 billion – a third of its GDP. And this without counting tens of billions of arms donations from abroad, specifies the Sipri.

Russian spending has increased by 9.2%, according to its estimates.

“But even if you remove the two warring nations, spending in Europe has increased significantly,” said Mr. Tian.

This European spending, which reached 480 billion dollars in 2022, has already increased by more than a third in ten years, and the trend should continue to accelerate in the next decade.

We could “potentially” see growth levels similar to 2022 for several years, believes the Sipri researcher.

After falling considerably in the 1990s, global military spending had been on the rise since the 2000s.

It was initially driven by China's major investments in its army, then by renewed tensions with Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Expenditure by country

The United States alone accounted for 39% of global spending last year. With China, number 2 (13%), they represent more than half of the world's military investments.

Next, Russia (3.9%), India (3.6%) and Arabia Saudi Arabia (3.3%) come far behind.

“China is investing massively in its naval forces, to increase its reach towards Taiwan obviously and beyond towards the South China Sea”, underlines Mr. Tian.

Opposite, Japan, but also Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and further afield Australia, are trying to keep up.

The United Kingdom is the first European in sixth place (3.1% of the world total) ahead of Germany (2.5%) and France (2.4%) – figures which include donations to the Ukraine.

The United Kingdom, the second largest donor behind the United States, “traditionally spends more than Germany and France and has also given more than Germany and France”, underlines Mr. Tian, ​​emphasizing its status as Europe's leading nation in terms of military spending.

In Europe, countries such as Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden are among those that have increased their military investments the most over the past decade.

Modern but very expensive armaments, such as the American F-35 fighter plane, also explain certain expenditure jumps, as for Finland, which acquired the last year 64 devices.

Last month, another Sipri report showed that arms imports into Europe had almost doubled (+93%) in 2022, driven by massive deliveries to Ukraine became the third world destination.