Worldwide military spending also rose by 2.6 percent to $1.8 trillion overall last year, SIPRI calculated.
It was the second year running the global figure has risen, bringing military spending to its highest level since 1988.
“The increase in US spending was driven by the implementation from 2017 of new arms procurement programs under the Trump administration,” said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) program.
The US figure alone of $649 billion was as much as the next eight highest military budgets.
But Chinese as well as US spending helped push the overall spending figures for the year higher, said the report.
China’s spending has risen 83 percent since 2009, bringing it up to second place, ahead of Saudi Arabia, India — which is modernizing its armed forces — and France.
China has spent 1.9 percent of its gross domestic output (GDP) on military spending since 2013.
Trump’s military budget aimed at countering ChinaThe Pentagon’s budget seeks to address China’s fast-paced achievements in military, space and other strategic technologies, something the US views as a threat to its national security.
Russia meanwhile dropped out of the top five spenders, with its military budget declining since 2016, said the report.
Western countries’ economic sanctions against Russia, in place since 2014 because of its conflict with Ukraine, have hit the country’s military budget.
In Ukraine itself meanwhile, military spending rose 21 percent on the previous year to $4.8 billion, SIPRI calculated.
In August 2018, US President Donald Trump signed the 2019 US military spending bill into law, authorizing the Defense Department to invest around $717 billion into military strategies that will target Russia and China.
The new act allowed the Pentagon to spend $639.1 billion in base funding, while earmarking another $69 billion to fund wars overseas and some $8.9 billion for obligatory military expenditures.
Earlier this month, former US President Jimmy Carter said he has told President Trump the reason why China is overtaking the US is that Washington has been at war with other countries for most of its history.
“Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked. “None. And we have stayed at war.”
He said the US has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” Carter said. This is, he said, because of Washington’s tendency to force other nations to “adopt our American principles.”
Carter said that China, in contrast to the US, had made massive economic progress by maintaining peace with its neighbors. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked.
The US has “wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending. “It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”
“And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover. We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing, we’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of say South Korea or Hong Kong,” Carter told the congregation.