A Military World

World military spending for 2011 is estimated to be over $1.7 trillion at current prices, and has come to a relative stagnation after it has been steadily rising in recent years. As summarised on the Global Issues website, “the 15 countries with the highest spending account for over 81% of the total; The USA is responsible for 41 per cent of the world total, distantly followed by the China (8.2% of world share), Russia (4.1%), UK and France (both 3.6%).” The data cited here comes from the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute who use publicly available data sources for its reports. Military expenditure is defined asall current and capital expenditure on: (a) the armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; (b) defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects; (c) paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations; and (d) military space activities. Such expenditures should include: (a) military and civil personnel, including retirement pensions of military personnel and social services for personnel; (b) operations and maintenance; (c) procurement; (d) military research and development; and (e) military aid (in the military expenditure of the donor country). Civil defence and current expenditures on previous military activities, such as veterans’ benefits, demobilization, conversion and weapon destruction are excluded.
SIPRI’s long term observations show how the decrease in military spending following the end of the cold war in the 1990s slowed down at the turn of the century, and has significantly been rising again over the last 10 years – now exceeding the levels of the 1980. A major impact on these figures has the revival of military spending in North America, as the regional breakdown of the data shows. Compared to that, the rise of Asia appears much less significant than one would expect, although the region is clearly gaining importance (see an interactive graphic of the data on the Guardian datablog).
The following cartogram uses the latest available figures of military expenditure from the 2012 update of the database, completed by own estimates for the missing countries. It shows the estimate absolute expenditure in current (2011) US$ for the year 2011:

Cartogram / Map of the global military expenditure
(click for larger version)

To add some more context to the map, I added a small inset map on the bottom left corner which shows the Global Peace Index. As explained on Wikipedia, “the Global Peace Index (GPI) is an attempt to measure the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness. It is the product of Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit.” Further details about the measure and related studies can be found on the website Vision of Humanity.

The above map was created related to the work on a series of material on geopolitical issues within the context of war and peace for Wissenschaft & Frieden, a German-language academic journal on the research of peace. The first issue of 2013 looks at the geopolitics, to which I contributed a paper on the visualisation of geopolitical issues and also prepared a series of maps that were featured throughout the issue. Due to the deadline for the paper, the above featured updated military spending map is not included in the paper, but the 2010 version of the map where very little has changed to the new data.
Here are the bibliographic details of the paper:

  • Hennig, B.D. (2013). Kriege, Krisen, Konflikte…und Karten: Ein neuer Blick auf die Welt. Wissenschaft und Frieden 2013 (1): 35-38.
    Article online (modified/edited version of the printed work)

Going back to the beginning, how did things change over the last decade in the period where expenditures have been increasing steadily? A map of 2002 that we created for the launch of the initial Worldmapper website shows the dominant role of the USA, but in comparison to the map of the current spending makes the slowly emerging military powers in East Asia and Brazil in South America visible. This is, how the military world looked like in 2002 (which has to be compared to today by bearing in mind that the absolute military expenditure has been growing, so that a smaller share of today’s expenditure may not mean an absolute decline in overall spending):

Cartogram / Map of the global military expenditure in 2002
Money well spent?

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin D. Hennig. You are free use the material under Creative Commons conditions (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0); please contact me for further details. I also appreciate a message if you used my maps somewhere else. High resolution and customized maps are available on request.