In the aftermath of World War II, 12 countries scattered across Europe and North America came together to form the North American Treaty Organization, a military alliance whose goal was to deter the Soviet Union from conquer Europe. It was founded on the principle of collective defence, which means that each member of NATO will come to the aid of any other member attacked. This is one of the reasons why, for example, French and British troops fought in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, and why NATO did not get involved in the war between Ukraine and Russia.
This theory of collective defense demands collective spending so that each ally has an army fully ready to help when called upon. While it is almost universally accepted that some military spending is necessary for security purposes, especially given the ever-increasing terrorist threats around the world, it is still unclear how much defense spending is adequate.
Stacker ranked the 50 countries that spend the most on their military, based on estimates of 2020 data (released in 2022) from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute via the World Bank. The list provides an overview of pressing conflicts in the world today.
It is often difficult to determine what a country spends on its military in a given year. In 2002, NATO defined military expenditure as including the current expenditure of the armed forces (including peacekeeping and paramilitary forces), ministries of defense and other government agencies involved in defence, activities military space, personnel expenditure (pensions and social services), aid, research and development, operation and maintenance, and the purchase of military supplies.
Despite this long definition, however, arriving at an accurate calculation can be a daunting task. One country might classify certain costs as military expenses while another might classify the same expenses as another type of expense. Additionally, as some countries are not transparent about their military budgets, the data presented by experts may not match the figures published by governments.
Yet even having a general idea of which countries spend the most on their military is helpful in finding out where the trouble spots are – from clashes in the South China Sea to the Russia-Ukraine clashes to counter-terrorism operations. terrorism in the Middle East – and identify, for better or for worse, the most powerful nations.
An important note: NATO itself has a military budget, to which all 30 member states contribute. For fiscal year 2022, that budget is set at just over $1.74 billion.
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