Military & Security

Defense expenditure

Calculating defense spending can be anything but straightforward. We have chosen to use SIPRI’s estimates because they have been generally better systematized than some of the others, but even these should be taken with a grain of salt. If you’d like to know more about the pitfalls of calculating military expenditure, especially across multiple countries, we recommend this helpful explainer by Olga Oliker of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as this cautionary tale by CNA’s Michael Kofman, who explains why the 2016 spending decline on the infographic below was, in fact, not nearly as dramatic as it seems.


The U.S. and Russia have both declared that they have met the Feb. 5, 2018, deadline for compliance with the New START treaty, with Moscow and Washington posting their respective numbers of warheads and delivery systems. The number of Russia's deployed warheads had plunged in the second half of 2017, leaving the country with just 11 warheads more than the treaty limit. The U.S. had gotten well below New START ceilings ahead of deadline for all three categories covered by the treaty. As noted by eminent nuclear expert Hans Kristensen, the fact that Russia up until recently had deployed "more nuclear warheads on its strategic launchers than New START allows ... result[ed] from an overlap in new systems coming online and old systems getting decommissioned." Russia was easily able to fulfill the treaty's requirements by the deadline by retiring or adjusting some Soviet-era MIRV'ed ICBMs. A detailed analysis by Mr. Kristensen, explaining Russia's nuclear modernization, appeared on this website in September 2017.

Source: U.S. State Department. Data current as of May 12, 2023. Russia did not provide 2023 data.

Military Personnel

Harvard graduate student Aleksandra Srdanovic contributed to research for these infographics.