Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 79, 29 April 2020

SIPRI Report says United States, China, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are the five largest spender
Harini Sha

In the news

On 26 April, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its annual report concluded that the global military expenditure in the last year had been the highest in a decade. The report highlights an increase in military spending by 3.6 per cent from 2018, the largest since 2010. 

The five largest military spenders in 2019 are the United States, China, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia and their cumulative military expenditure accounted for 62 per cent of the total global expenditure. 

And for the first time two Asian countries - China and India, figure in the top three military spenders in the world.       

Issues at large

SIPRI publishes a comprehensive annual update on military expenditure every year. 

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the global military spending of 1.9 trillion dollars in 2019 was the highest and probably represents a peak in global expenditures. While China increased its military expenditure by 5.1 per cent, India’s expenditure grew by 6.8 per cent from the year 2018. 

The report identifies the growing tensions with both China and Pakistan as the major drivers for India’s military spending. Japan and South Korea were the other Asian countries named by SIPRI as the largest military spenders. 

The SIPRI report highlights that the annual military expenditure in the region has continuously increased since 1989. In the global share of military expenditures, the United States contributes heavily with 732 billion dollars that accounts for 38 per cent of the global share. The report identifies that perceived threats of great power politics and competition with China might have led to the recent growth in the US military spending. 

In perspective

The significant increase in military spending amongst the democratic countries should cause an alarm to the fundamental liberal ideas of cooperation and co-existence at the international level. In an increasingly globalised world, the possibility of war has reduced, but low-intensity conflicts have continued among many countries. The perceived threats of a possible war have kept alive the countries’ military expenditures. 

In 2020, the outbreak of coronavirus is likely to drain the economy. In this scenario, an accelerated trend of military spending might be reversed in the upcoming years. 


Harini Sha is a Research Intern at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). She is pursuing her Masters in International Studies from Stella Maris College, Chennai 

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