According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studie's annual Military Balance report, the United States spends over four times as much in its defense budget as its nearest rival, China.

In fact, its budget comes close to matching that of its 14th closest rivals put together.


 

America has long been a military behemoth, but some of the other big spenders in the report, which was released Wednesday, might be more surprising. China, a clear geopolitical rival to the United States, is second on the list, its military spending far higher than any potential rivals in East Asia. Saudi Arabia, an important U.S. ally, is next on the list, it's defense budget bolstered by ongoing fears about the Islamic State and the need for regional stability.

Perhaps ominous, the highest-spending European nation on the list is Russia, a country now at odds with the United States and Western Europe over its policy on Ukraine.

John Chipman, the director-general and chief executive of IISS, says that the main takeaway from the the Military Balance report is the rise of the Asian powers and the decline of European powers. One reason may be that European powers didn't anticipate much need for military action in 2014. That soon changed.

"While in early 2014, the concern was about possible military conflict in Asia, the salient strategic reality of the year was the re-emergence of conflict in Europe and the ever complicating and widening nature of extreme Islamic terrorist groups’ activity in the Middle East and Africa," Chipman writes.

These shifting priorities have heightened concern about NATO member states' defense spending, though few members are likely to meet NATO's demand that they spend two percent of their nation's GDP on defense anytime soon. This situation means that the United States often ends up picking up the tab: According to NATO's 2013 annual report, America provided 73 percent of the alliance's spending on defense. That figure was up from 68 percent in 2007.

Last year, The Washington Post looked at data for military spending between 1988 and 2012. It showed spending in Russia suddenly drop, then begin to rise again, while spending in major European military powers such as France and Britain barely shifted. In the United States., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought major shifts.

Defense598

Correction: Please note, the first two charts in this story has been updated to more accurately reflect the differences in military spending.