The five countries who shelled out the most money on their militaries in 2018 were the United States (surprise surprise), China, Saudi Arabia, India, and France. Combined, the military spending of these five countries makes up over 60 percent of the entire global military budget.

Russia, generally among the top military spenders in the world, didn’t make the top 5 this time around. The last time Russia didn’t appear on the list was over a decade ago (2006). Even though the vast country’s budget was over $61 billion, it only ranked as the 6th largest military spender of 2018.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent think tank, the global military budget rose 2.6 percent from the previous year’s spending (2017).

The United States made up a whopping 36 percent of the world’s military spending last year, marking the country’s first military budget increase since 2010 (4.6 percent more than the previous year). Their total? An impressive $649 billion.

China following the States making up 14 percent of the global budget, increasing their spending for the 24th year in a row according to SIPRI to $250 billion (an increase of 5 percent compared to the previous year). Saudi Arabia and India tied with 3.7 percent, and France made up 3.5 percent.

Russia, no longer in the top five, accounted for 3.4 percent of the global military spending in 2018. Just one-tenth of a percentile less than the number five biggest spender (France).

It is important to note that Russia’s dropping out of the big top 5 comes on the heels of annual increases in Russian military spending of nearly 5 percent to 16 percent from 2010 to 2015.

That said since 2016 Russia’s military budget has seen a steady decrease. However, despite the last few year’s reductions, Russia’s 2018 military budget was still approximately 27 percent more than it was just a decade ago (2009).

With tensions rising in several European countries in Russia’s back yard, their drop in military spending is somewhat curious. Issues with NATO in Latvia and Lithuania, as well as conflicts with Crimea and Ukraine, it’s hard to say what precisely Russian leaders are thinking.

On that note, according to SIPRI, military spending in the countries mentioned above, as well as Bulgaria and Romania, saw anywhere from 18 to 24 percent growth last year.

Top 5 or not, it is clear that Russia is still a heavyweight in the big boy’s global military spending club.
“The increases in Central and Eastern Europe are largely due to growing perceptions of a threat from Russia,” said a senior researcher at SIPRI, Pieter Wezeman. “This is despite the fact that Russian military spending has fallen for the past two years.”

Regardless of the drop in spending, Russian President Putin hasn’t been shy about promoting newly developed weapons being tested by the powerhouse nation.

Among these new additions to the Russian military’s arsenal is a cutting-edge hypersonic missile that supposedly can’t be tracked by standard anti-missile systems. The missile could see action in the Russian military within the next 2 to 3 years.
One could speculate that the drop in Russian military spending is due to their modernization program being successful (started in 2010). On the other hand, it could also be due to the economic hardships the country is facing as a consequence of meddling in the 2016 election of American President Trump, its annexation of Crimea, and possible guilt in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom (ex-Russian spy).

All things considered, top 5 or not, it is clear that Russia is still a heavyweight in the big boy’s global military spending club and will continue to be long into the future.

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