Global defence spending on everything from ammunition to nuclear weapons has jumped 9% to a record $2.2trn (£1.7trn) from a year earlier and will rise again in 2024 as the world enters “a more dangerous period”, new analysis has found.
Russia – locked in a war with Ukraine – allocates more than 30% of annual government expenditure to its armed forces, according to the assessment on the balance of global military power by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published on Tuesday.
It said the Russian armed forces have lost more than 3,000 main battle tanks in Ukraine – roughly as many as they had ready to deploy before the full-scale invasion two years ago. Moscow is now drawing on stored kit to replenish losses, “trading quality for quantity”.
Even excluding the United States, which has the world’s most powerful military, NATO allies have regrown their combined defence spending by almost a third in the past decade, a move that was prompted by Vladimir Putin’s initial invasion of Crimea in 2014, the analysis said.
But it warned that “glaring gaps” in capability remained following decades of defence cuts. Donald Trump caused an uproar over the weekend when he criticised a majority of European NATO allies and Canada over their failure to meet a minimum goal to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence, saying he would urge attacks on member states that did not invest sufficiently in their armed forces.
The IISS thinktank said that the US and Europe are once again ramping up production of missiles and ammunition, with a renewed focus on artillery and air defence systems – areas that had been neglected since the end of the Cold War, with stockpiles and industrial capacity hollowed out.
Nations, including China and Russia, are also focusing on new technology like hypersonic missiles – travelling more than five times faster than the speed of sound and very difficult to intercept – as well as unmanned weapons such as uncrewed attack boats, used very effectively by Ukraine against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, IISS said.
“Nuclear weapons are also very much back on the agenda, with China adding missile silos and the United States modernising warheads and delivery systems,” the thinktank said in a statement released ahead of the publication of the annual Military Balance.
It is the 65th year of the report, which tracks the state of each military in the world.
The thinktank said the world “has entered a more dangerous period in the last 12 months”.
This was against a backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine, conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East and growing tensions between the West and China.
The thinktank said the Chinese Communist Party was demonstrating a growing capacity to be able to project power – a move that is driving increased cooperation between the West and other militaries in Asia to offset the threat.
It also highlighted Iran‘s expanding influence such as the supply of Iranian anti-ship missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen that are attacking shipping in the Red Sea as well as the sale of Iranian suicide drones to Russia, which are being used to devastating effect in Ukraine.
“Global defence spending is up 9% from the previous year and poised to rise further in 2024, based on already announced spending commitments,” the IISS said.
Bastian Giegerich, director-general and chief executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said: “The IISS Military Balance is published at an important time when the rules-based order is being increasingly questioned.
“While Western defence spending is rising and plans to revamp equipment are ongoing, we reflect on the challenges including those set by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, China’s military modernisation and events in the Middle East.”