UK military spending is already almost the highest in the world.

Lists of military spending are usually done in absolute figures.

Using these, the UK spends more on its military than every other country in the world apart from the USA, China and India. More than Russia, more than Germany. More than France. More than Japan. The sixth largest economy, but the fourth biggest military spender.

When you look at per capita military spending however, that’s the burden that that spending puts on each individual citizen, the UK comes in at number three.

For 2022 that looks like this for the ten countries that spend the most in absolute terms.

Per capita military spendingIn US Dollars
USA2434
Saudi Arabia1635
UK1020
South Korea984
France870
Germany674
Russia455
Japan425
China204
India55

So, the burden of military spending on every UK citizen is more than double that of every Russian citizen, and over five times that on every Chinese citizen. So, to match the Russian level of per capita spending, we could cut our expenditure by half. If we wanted parity with China’s spending per citizen, we could cut down to a fifth of the current level.

It should also be noted 1) that the top six of these countries, plus Japan, are allies of the United States and 2) there is not majority support in the UK to increase military spending. A poll by yougov/datapraxis in May which asked voters to choose between

(a) ‘The war in Ukraine has showed that my country should be spending more on defence, even if that means that we must cut money on other areas like health, education and crime prevention’, and

(b) ‘Despite the war in Ukraine, my country should not be increasing spending on defence as that could require cutting money on other areas like health, education and crime prevention’.

showed 36% against increased expenditure to 25% in favour.

The figures for absolute military spending that these calculations are based on come from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for 2022. The figures for population are from UN figures for 2019, so the calculation won’t be exact, but aren’t likely to be significantly different.

Countrymilitary spending in billions of US dollarsPopulation in millions
USA801329
China2931433
India76.61366
UK68.467
Russia65.9145
France56.665
Germany5683
Saudi Arabia55.634
Japan55.1126
South Korea50.251