With our ongoing involvement in Afghanistan and the Harper Government’s sabre-rattling around Arctic sovereignty, where exactly does Canada rank when it comes to global military expenditures?
An oft-cited statistic describes how America spends more on defence that many other global powers combined, but is that useful to think about military spending in terms of total dollars spent? The CIA World Factbook has a compelling dataset that shows global military spending as a percent of GDP and–while cobbled together from several year’s worth of data–it illustrates some fascinating regional trends.
As one might expect, Canada is quite modest with its military expenditures (1.1% of its GDP) compared to some of its neighbours. The United States of America tops the west with 4.06%, and its closest competitor in terms of military spending (to say nothing of ideology) is Cuba, who spends 3.8% of its GDP on defence. The only other country in the Americas over 3% is Colombia, and presumably that can be attributed to the unending battles against the cartels. Haiti is the country in the west with the lowest percentage of military expenditures, coming in at just 0.4%.
Unsurprisingly, the Middle East is home to many of the biggest military spenders and the overall crown goes to Oman, who earmark a substantial 11.4% of their GDP on defence. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Israel trail closely behind with 10%, 8.6% and 7.3% respectively.
In terms of European military spending, Macedonia and Greece lead their neighbours with 6% and 4.3% respectively. The UK and France are almost in a dead heat with 2.7% and 2.6%. Given their relative insulation from the financial hardships endured by much of the EU over the last year, it is interesting to note that Germany spends a lean 1.5% of their GDP on their military. Other regional (militarily) frugal countries include Switzerland and Austria, who dedicate just 1% and 0.8% of their economic output to defence.
Iceland deserves special mention here for not spending any of their GDP on their military. The Nordic island nation is the only member of NATO without a standing army and their military is the rather modest “three ships and four aircraft” that comprise their coast guard.