US is a global military power, EU could be No. 2

In the military sphere (military spending, weapon production, size of the army, etc.), it is the US that comes out on top. Its result of 31.03 points is more than four times the number of points scores by China—8.21 points. It is important to remember that China does not share some of the information about military spending, which means its result is only an estimate. The result of the US is three times that of Russia—8.99 points. In this indicator, Germany comes in only in sixth place and Poland in 33rd. Ahead of our country, in the 19th place is Ukraine, waging an internal conflict with Russia’s participation. The lowest spots in the ranking are taken up by Moldavia, Hong Kong, Belarus, Jamaica and Cyprus.

Militarisation Index, 1991-2016

Source: Own calculations

US and China are atop the list of countries spending the most on their armies. Washington and Beijing spend EUR 529 billion and EUR 189 billion, respectively. Saudi Arabia overtook Russia in military spending in 2015, taking over the third spot. This happened in part because of Riyadh’s engagement in Yemen’s civil war coinciding with the falling value of the rouble caused by the sanctions, among other factors.

The European Union as one entity would not outdistance the US in terms of its military spending and number of soldiers. The EU’s military indicator would reach 19.42 points, or more than 10 points lower than the US. This result would still be double to number of points posted by China or Russia. So, EU would be the No. 2 military power in the world.

30 countries with the highest result in the Militarisation Index in 2016 (points)

Source: Own calculations

In the past quarter century, militarisation in most countries has been on the rise—such process was seen in 62 per cent of all countries. Atop the list of the countries spending more in their armies is China—its indicator rose by 3.99 points in 1991-2016. The second highest rise was India (1.23 points), followed by Saudi Arabia (1.01 points) and Ukraine (0.76 points).

The Militarisation Index in the US, China and Russia in 1991-2016 (points)

Source: Own calculations

The US is in the last place in terms of changes in military spending with a 4.01-point drop. Similarly, significant falls were seen by Germany, Kuwait, the EU as a whole, Great Britain, Russia and South Africa. Poland was in the 128th place out of 168 countries in terms of the rise in military spending (or rather its fall in case of Poland, where it slipped 0.02 points).

Other countries that have reduced its potential in comparison to other countries over the last 25 years are Kuwait, Great Britain, South Africa, Japan, France and the Czech Republic. Russia’s situation is particularly interesting. In 1991, it was spending a significant amount on its army, to reduce it drastically reduce in the following years. However, expenditures started to grow again in the 2000’s to return to the level from the 1990s, or the beginning of the country’s economic transformation.

A similar situation took place in the US, which perhaps in the early 1990s came to believe in “the end of history” (or the primacy of diplomacy and politics based on soft power and non-military actions), to then increase its military engagement after September 11, 2001 to levels from the 1980s. Currently the trend has again reversed and this engagement is again being cut. The question remains over what direction will be taken by the administration of the new US president, Donald Trump.