The 12 countries that spend the highest proportion of GDP on their military

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A US soldier.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The United States regularly has the world’s highest military expenditure, and upped its budget to $603 billion (£467 billion) this year.

But when military spend is looked at as a percentage of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the picture is different.

This measurement looks at the relative size of a country’s miltary spending, rather than comparing budgets.

Keep scrolling for the top 12 countries.


12. Yemen — 4.02% of GDP

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Forensic experts investigate the scene at the community hall where Saudi-led warplanes struck a funeral in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, October 9, 2016.
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Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Population: 27.4 million (48th in the world)

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service, but over 40% of Yemen’s population is 14 or younger, and the median age is 19.2.

Yemen has been gripped by civil war since 2014, when Houthi rebels took much of the country by force. In response, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies – with assistance from the United States and the UK – launched a drone strike campaign in an attempt to retake territory from the rebels.

Yemen is currently suffering a famine, which the UN has called the world’s largest hunger crisis, and an outbreak of cholera.


11. Lebanon — 4.04% of GDP

Population: 6.2 million (108th in the world)

The legal minimum age for voluntary military service is between 17 and 30, and there is no conscription.

Parts of Lebanon are still controlled by Hezbollah – a Shi’a Islamist military group and political party, named as a terrorist organisation by the European Union. Hezbollah was involved in a war with Israel in 2006.

Meanwhile, in 2012 the Syrian conflict spilled into Lebanon, and tensions and violence in the country escalated. According to the UN refugee agency, there are now over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.


10. Armenia — 4.1% of GDP

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Protesters gesture as a riot police vehicle sprays a jet of water to disperse them during a rally against a recent decision to raise public electricity prices in Yerevan, Armenia, June 23, 2015. The protest started on Monday, when about 5,000 demonstrators marched to the presidential headquarters, as they rallied against a recent decision to raise public electricity prices, but were stopped by riot police. The protesters began a sit-in protest, blocking traffic on a central boulevard. Police asked demonstrators to leave the road but they refused.
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Reuters/Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure

Population: 3.1 million (136th in the world)

People between the ages of 18 and 27 are eligible to volunteer for military service, and there is a two-year mandatory conscription period for men.

On Tuesday the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported that Armenia’s military forces had violated a ceasefire between the two nations 128 times in 24 hours.

This conflict began in 1988 when Armenia tried to take Azerbaijani territory. The ceasefire was agreed in 1994 following peace negotiations, but tensions remain in the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has an ethnic Armenian majority.

Last year, violent protests erupted in Armenia’s capital, with armed protestors demanding the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian and the release of opposition leader Jirair Sefilian.


9. USA — 4.35% of GDP

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TAJI, IRAQ – APRIL 12: U.S. Army trainers speak with Iraqi Army recruits at a military base on April 12, 2015 in Taji, Iraq. Members of the U.S. Army’s 5-73 CAV, 3BCT, 82nd Airborne Division are teaching members of the newly-formed 15th Division of the Iraqi Army, as the Iraqi government launches offensives to try to recover territory lost to ISIS last year.
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Getty Images

Population: 324 million (4th in the world)

The legal minimum age for voluntary military service in the United States is 18, or 17 with parental consent. In 2011, the US Department of Defence said the country had active military troops stationed in nearly 150 countries.

Most recently and most prominently, US forces have been involved in airstrikes and raids in Yemen,, Syria and Iraq. US forces have been criticised for civilian deaths in all three countries.

The election of President Donald Trump has caused concerns that US military intervention in the Middle East is set to increase. In May, the US budget increased military spending by $15 billion, below the $54 billion Trump called for in March.


8. Algeria — 4.48% of GDP

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President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
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Thomson Reuters

Population: 40.3 million (34th in the world)

The legal age for military service is 17, and men are conscripted for 18 months between the ages of 19 and 30.

Algeria suffered a civil war beginning in 1992, sparked by a military coup against the Islamic Salvation Front. The war led to the deaths of more than 100,000 people, with thousands more missing. In 1999 President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who still rules Algeria, agreed a peace deal with the rebels and banned the Islamic Salvation Front party.

In June, Algeria joined Egypt and Tunisia in calling for political dialogue to end the crisis in neighbouring Libya, rejecting a military solution.


7. Jordan — 4.65% of GDP

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A Jordanian soldier carries a Syrian refugee child to help him board a Jordanian army vehicle
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Thomson Reuters

Population: 8.2 million (97th in the world)

Jordanians must be 17 to join the military, and conscription for men was reintroduced in 2007.

In 2014 Jordan’s national airline introduced new restrictions on travel for men of military age, in preparation for military action against Islamic jihadists in Iraq and Syria. The biggest age group in the country is 0-14, and the median age is 22.3.

In June, Germany announced it would move its military forces from Turkey to Jordan following a diplomatic dispute.

Jordan is a close military ally of the US and holds a strategically important position between Iraq and Syria.


6. Azerbaijan — 4.7% of GDP

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A house which was damaged during clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces is seen in Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is controlled by separatist Armenians, in this still image taken from video provided by Nagorno-Karabakh region Defence Ministry April 2, 2016.
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REUTERS/Nagorno-Karabakh Military Handout via Reuters TV

Population: 9.9 million (92nd in the world)

Men between 18 and 35 are required to perform military service for 18 months, or for 12 months if they are university graduates.

The landlocked region of Nagorno-Karabakh remains disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

A ceasefire, brokered in 1994, was violated severely last year when troops marched on the region and hostilities heated up. Azerbaijan also said Armenia had broken it 128 times in 24 hours on Tuesday.


5. Israel — 5.69% of GDP

Population: 8.2 million (99th in the world)

Both men and women must do military service, although men must serve for longer (32 months compared to women’s 24 months).

Israel has been locked in a conflict over territory with neighbouring Palestine for years, despite numerous attempts by international forces to broker a peace agreement. Israelis have ruled over Palestinians in the West Bank, in the east of Israel, and eastern Jerusalem since 1967, and low-level fighting between the two sides are ongoing.

US President Donald Trump boasted before his election that he could help broker a peace deal between the two nations, but reports from June suggested he may be considering pulling out of the process.


4. Saudi Arabia — 7.98% of GDP

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Saudi youths demonstrate a stunt known as “sidewall skiing” (driving on two wheels) in the northern city of Hail, in Saudi Arabia March 30, 2013.
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Reuters

Population: 28.2 million (47th in the world)

The minimum legal age for men (women are not permitted) to join the military in Saudi Arabia is 17, and there is no conscription.

In May, oil-rich Saudi Arabia signed a $110 billion weapons deal with the United States, which included items that had been put on hold under the Obama administration due to concerns about civilian deaths in Saudi’s attacks on Yemen.

The British government has also been criticised for continuing to sell arms to Saudi, despite civilian deaths in Yemeni raids.

Saudi and its allies in the Middle East cut diplomatic ties with and imposed sanctions on Qatar earlier in June, after accusing the country of supporting extremism. After issuing an ultimatum last week, Saudi announced on Wednesday that it had received a response, and would reply in due course.


3. Oman — 8.61% of GDP

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Oman’s leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
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REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

Population: 3.4 million (134th in the world)

The legal age for voluntary military service is between 18 and 30, and there is no conscription.

The UK sold £2.5 billion worth of weapons to Oman, a close ally, in 2013, and the UK government has a military base in Oman’s Duqm Port complex. But human rights campaigners have criticised the UK’s support for the country: Human Rights Watch says Oman does not permit freedom of expression, discriminates against women and allows the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers.


2. Iraq — 8.7% of GDP

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A member of the Counter Terrorism Service walks past the ruined Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City in Mosul
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Thomson Reuters

Population: 38.1 million (37th in the world)

The median age in Iraq is 19.9, and military service is open to those aged between 18 and 40. There is no conscription.

Military spending in Iraq has increased considerably since 2011, when it stood at 3.18% of GDP.

Iraq was ravaged by war between 2003 and 2011, that began following an invasion by a United States-led coalition to topple Saddam Hussein. The UK’s Chilcot inquiry has since condemned the war as unnecessary since Hussein did not pose an immediate threat to the UK and intelligence reports that he had weapons of mass destruction were false.

The governments that have held power in Iraq since Hussein have battled to keep order, and the country is still suffering violence and instability. In 2014, ISIS seized large parts of the country. Much of this territory has since been regained, but thousands of people have been displaced in the conflict.


1. South Sudan — 10.32% of GDP

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A South Sudanese man holds a gun in his village.
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Flickr/Steve Evans

Population: 12.3 million (75th in the world)

The median age in South Sudan is 17.1, and over 44% of the population is between the age of 0 and 14. However, charity UNICEF estimates that more than 17,000 child soldiers have been used to help fight the country’s civil war, which began in 2013. Despite this, 18 is the legal minimum age for both compulsory and voluntary military service.

The war erupted after President Salva Kiir accused his former vice-president of plotting a coup. Although a ceasefire was brokered in 2014, it has been repeatedly broken.

The war has caused over one million people to be displaced, and reports suggest civilians are being routinely targeted. In December 2016, the UN said ethnic cleansing was occurring in some parts of the country.

In February, the UN formally declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, warning that 100,000 people were facing starvation and over a million were on the brink of famine. In May, the President declared a ceasefire, but the violence has continued.