A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is seen during a Ukrainian Independence Day parade in Kyiv. (Getty Images)

BELFAST — Global military expenditure surged to a record $2.44 trillion in 2023, the largest year-on-year rise on weapons spending since 2009, according to a new Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report.

The report, published today, said that the new figure is an “all time high,” equivalent to both a 6.8 percent increase on spending in 2022 and marking the ninth consecutive year in which global military expenditure rose.

The report also shows that for the first time in 15 years, global defense spending increased across all five major geographical regions: Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, and the Americas.

“The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security,” said Nan Tian, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “States are prioritizing military strength but they risk an action–reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape.”

The US remains the world’s largest defense spender, outlaying $916 billion last year, a 2.3 percent annual increase, ahead of China in second place, which spent an estimated $296 billion, a 6 percent increase over the same period. SIPRI added that Beijing’s total spending stands as the 29th consecutive spike in national military spending, year-on-year, and represents “half” of all military spending across Asia and Oceania. (China’s annual military budget is publicly recorded at $222 billion, though recently a US senator said US intelligence believes the actual budget is more than three times that much.)

Amid its invasion of Ukraine, Russia moved the needle on national military expenditure considerably too, increasing spending by 24 percent for an estimated total of $109 billion last year. The figure also accounts for 16 percent of all government money spent by the Kremlin over 2023.

Ukraine spending reached $64.8 billion, an annual leap of 51 percent. Overall, Kyiv sits as the eighth highest global military spender.

When combined, Ukraine’s spending and miliary aid of “at least” $35 billion, mainly from the US and other international partners, amounted to around 91 percent of Russian spending. Not included in SIPRI’s figures is the new $60 billion in new US assistance, including $13.8 to replenish US stockpiles, after the House passed a $95 billion supplemental on Saturday.

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At a NATO level, the 31 member states from 2023 spent $1.34 trillion, equivalent to 55 percent of global military expenditure, with the US accounting for more than two thirds of the total.

Elsewhere, as tension with China heightens, both Japan and Taiwan increased their respective military spending by 11 percent, with Tokyo outlaying $50.2 billion and Taipei pitching in $16.6 billion.

SIPRI also said that “war and tensions” in the Middle East led to the largest spending increase across the region in the “past decade”: a 9 percent jump in expenditure, working out to $200 billion for the region last year.

The change was largely a result of increased spending by Israel, the second largest spender in the region behind Saudi Arabia, and which drew on $27.5 billion in 2023 — a 24 percent increase. The push for new funding from Tel Aviv was “mainly driven by Israel’s large-scale offensive in Gaza in response to the attack on southern Israel by Hamas in October 2023,” noted SIPRI.

“The large increase in military spending in the Middle East in 2023 reflected the rapidly shifting situation in the region — from the warming of diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab countries in recent years to the outbreak of a major war in Gaza and fears of a region-wide conflict,” said Diego Lopes da Silva, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.