Love it or hate it, military power is one of the distinguishing features of the world's dominant nations. Although America is known for the size and power of its military, it is not alone in its bid for strong national security. These 10 nations that have racked up the largest military expense bills.
All figures come from the most up to date information from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a leading resource on global militaries.
2013 Expenditure: 682 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending: 39%
The U.S. (obviously) tops the chart with a recorded 682 billion dollars of annual military spending, or about 20% of our total federal spending. That is a sizable sum. It's more than the entire GDP of Norway last year. To give you even more perspective, the U.S.' share of global military spending is more than the rest of the top 10 combined. If we were to divide the defense budget by the median American salary, it would be worth the salaries of 14 million people. It has come under scrutiny with current debt crisis, and with the Iraq and Afghanistan war costing an estimated $4 trillion over the last decade, many Americans are ready to change our priorities and wind down the defense spending. However, with 200,000 troops stationed in over 144 countries, it could be some time before this happens.
2013 Expenditure: 90.7 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending: 5.2%
Not surprising on this list is the arms vendor of the politically unstable third world, also known as Russia. Currently on an upswing after a long fallout from cold war, the Putinized country shows no signs of slowing down its weapons supply lines to all places of turmoil. And although Russian troops have seen very little action since the fall of the Soviet Union, they will be closely watched next month as everyone nervously tunes into the Olympic Games in Mochiscow. Considering the recent security threats, let's hope they are up to the challenge.
2013 Expenditure: 166 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending: 9.5%
The up-and-coming superpower comes in second on the global list for military spending. This isn't exactly calming for the rest of the world. Containing a military of roughly 1.25 million active personnel, a properly-equipped China would unquestionably be the most powerful international global force. For decades, this was not a cause for concern. This all changed when the Chinese military claimed ownership of the Japanese Senkaku islands and their surrounding waterways. Considering history's outcomes for small territorial disputes between large countries (ahem, WWI), one should be concerned about what the nationalistic country plans to do with its big guns in the next few years.
4. United Kingdom
2013 Expenditure: 60.8 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending: 3.5%
The United Kingdom's armed forces, also known as the "Armed Forces of the Crown," are the collective armies of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland,still technically headed by Queen Elizabeth. While the population of the U.K. is less than that of France and Germany, the Armed Forces of the Crown are charged with not only protecting the people of the United Kingdom, but also their overseas territories and crown dependencies, which in total amount to 17. This is in addition to being a major participant in NATO peacekeeping missions and thus means that the U.K. finds itself with a rather large military obligation. So think twice before you mock the guard at Buckingham palace. He's rolling with a pretty big crew.
2013 Expenditure: 59.3 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending: 3.4%
Following World War II, and the peacekeeping promise of the U.S. under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, Japan underwent a massive demilitarization. The military spending they did have was limited and the U.S was seen as the nation's protector. However, with recent concerns following China's claim to the Senkaku Islands and an emerging North Korean threat, Japan has begun to revamp its military. While the U.S. has been urging Japan to rebuild it's armed forces for some time, the implications behind it should not be ignored.
2013 Expenditure: 58.9 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending:3.4%
The country of wine, cheese and cigarette-smoking snobs is also home to one of the world's biggest militaries. With an estimated armed force of 250,000, France has the largest armed forces in Europe, and the 14th biggest globally. While France does not foresee any probable need for domestic defense, it, like Germany, has a very large international peacekeeping power. With forces currently deployed in offensive missions in Mali and the Central African Republic, and deployments to Libya and the Ivory Coast in 2011 France has one of most active militaries abroad (though they never deployed troops to Iraq).
The French take a great deal of pride in their military capacity, and have recently maintained a reputation of reserving their forces for requests directly from governments themselves. They mean to act multilaterally, not on a basis of political pressure. As Bruno Tertrai, a defense analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris surmises, "The French people are ready to support a military operation as long as the objectives are clear and seem legitimate."
7. Saudi Arabia
2013 Expenditure: 56.7 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending: 3.2%
Bringing in our first and only entry from the Middle East is Saudi Arabia. An ally of the United States out of convenience, Saudi Arabia recently received a big vote of confidence from the U.S. in 2011 when President Obama authorized its single-largest military sale to the Saudi Kingdom. The $30 billion deal sent 84 F-15 jets, considered among the most sophisticated military jets in the world, to the Saudi's in an effort to equip them against an Iranian military threat.
The move isn't surprising given Saudi military support of the U.S. during both the Gulf and the Iraq War. However, the alliance between these two countries is less of a friendship and more of a link forged out of necessity. Skeptics opposed to a U.S.-aided Saudi armament point out (rightfully), that Saudi investors account for the largest source of funding for terrorist cells like the Taliban and al-Qaida, and that the majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. For the time being, the Sunni country seems very willing to cooperate with the U.S. in the face of an Iranian Shtite threat.
2013 Expenditure: 46.1 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending:2.6%
Coming in eighth place for military expenditure are our friends in India, who despite a boom in population and business, still lag in military strength. With the world's second largest population, India is viewed by many as a buffer to China's dominance in Asia, specifically one with a more American- centric viewpoint. Positioned among many notoriously volatile neighbors such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, India's role as military strength is going to a subject of great interest in the next decade.
2013 marked a big year for Indian military advancement, with the acquisition of several intermediate-range ballistic missiles, it's first dedicated military satellite and the commissioning of its first advanced light helicopter. However, the capabilities of India's army are still massively underwhelming compared to the might of China's, rendering their role as a mediatorsbalance, almost completely impossible. Let's just hope they can just scare them away with their mighty border dance.
2013 Expenditure: 45.8 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending:2.6%
Likely coming as a surprise to everyone, Germany ranks only ninth in military expenditure around the globe. When you think of advanced military technology, the countries that most likely come to mind are the United States, Israel and Germany. Indeed, despite spending such a low percentage of their GDP on defense, Germany's military industry remains one of the most sophisticated in the world. It is third in military exports, behind only by the U.S. and Russia.
So how is it able to maintain one of the world's top military powers on such a low budget? Well for starters, the Bundeswehr, Germany's military, is in the process of scaling down their personnel. In the summer of 2013, Germany's defense department declared they were slimming down the number of soldiers employed to 180,000 (less than the U.K., France and Italy), because "It is more likely the Bundeswehr will in future be employed in areas of crisis and conflict around the world than in defending the country." And while efficient allocation of personnel is always a money saver, we have a suspicion that is has more to do with their recent order of 600 "future soldier" supersuits.
2013 Expenditure: 34 Billion; Portion of Global Military Spending:1.9%
With continuous talk of their debt crisis, mafia problems and delicious pastas, people can forget that Italy is among the world's leading economies. It has a military to match. With an annual military expenditure of around 34 billion, Italy's military expenditure is more than the total GDP of countries such as Jordan, Bolivia and Bahrain. While their military doesn't do their image any favors by sanctioning runway-designed uniforms for their MPs (featured above), the Italian military is quite active across the world. Currently involved in 24 missions globally, Italy also had the ffourth-highest peak deployment of active troops in the multinational force against Iraq. However, recent economic pressures have led the state to approve a $6.6 billion reduction in defense spending, which the mafia might be happy to hear about.