In the final year of his presidency Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world proposed in 2009 seems far from becoming a reality. Although the countries with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons (Russia and the USA) reducing their inventory, a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) states that China, France, Russia, and the UK “are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.” The state of the nuclear world therefore has changed very little in recent years, as SIPRI shows: “At the start of 2015, nine states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) — possessed approximately 15 850 nuclear weapons, of which 4300 were deployed with operational forces. Roughly 1800 of these weapons are kept in a state of high operational alert.” The following cartogram shows who the nuclear powers are in the 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 as “all 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: