In the constantly mutating and competitive global defense panorama, five countries are leading the way with significant projected defense budgets and an expected cumulative 2021 defense spend of $1.1 trillion.
However, this is actually a surprising 4.3% reduction in total top five spend when compared to the 2020 figures. The US defense budget for 2021, while still the biggest of all at an expected $740 billion, has been reduced by 1.26% from 2020, when it spent $750 billion. China, in second place with a 2021 defense budget of $178.2 billion, actually spent $237 billion in 2020.
On the other hand, two other countries in the top five, India and Germany, showed the biggest growth between 2020 and 2021, at 20.73% and 14.86% respectively.
What influences defense spending
US defense spending is consistently high, but its budget allocations have changed over time to reflect the priorities of its various branches. For example, the Navy and Air Force budgets are aimed at dealing with emerging issues like strategic competition and possible threats from Russia and China. The small reduction in budget may be connected with the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan.
The US and European countries have previously been obliged to spend more on the historically unstable Middle East region, whereas the current crisis in Afghanistan may engender a refugee crisis that will cause several countries across the globe, particularly in Europe and Asia, to increase their defense budgets.
The US defense budget is connected to its increasingly significant investment in research and development, nuclear weapons, and arms procurement.
A country’s perception of the probability of threat is reflected in its defense spending, which is also affected by other issues such as conflicts or threat of war elsewhere in the world. The US Department of Defense budget allocation has long been influenced by the country’s historical participation in international conflicts.
Spending is also linked to economic status. After years of economic growth, China is now looking to consolidate its military position in an effort to dominate the global defense scene.
In spite of the global pandemic, defense spending has remained high
The economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis were expected to affect defense spending, but the 4% reduction amongst the top five contenders is not significant. However, for other countries, the pandemic did limit defense budgets as funds were diverted to dealing with the health emergency.
Despite the global period of economic uncertainty, the other three countries in the top five – Germany, India, and the UK – increased their 2021 defense expenditure. The UK, which holds fifth place in the top group with a $55 billion defense budget, passed a government resolution in 2020 to maintain the budget 0.5% above the inflation rate, reinforcing the country’s European military position.
Defense spending has always been one way to establish global supremacy. Current spending aligns with this concept as countries invest in avantgarde technologies to gain position in areas like cyber and space, while some countries have made minor increases in budgets to improve current defense system weaknesses.