Countries Buying the Most Weapons From the US Government

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View of Abu Dhabi Skyline at sunset, United Arab Emirates
Source: Thinkstock

4. UAE
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $773 million
> 2016 total arms imports: $1.3 billion
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 60.5%
> 2015 GDP: $644 billion

The United Arab Emirates is one of several Middle Eastern nations to rank among the U.S. government’s biggest weapons customers. The country bought some $773 million worth of weapons from the United States in 2016, more than from any other country. The UAE’s next largest weapons dealer was France, which sold the country some $336 million in weapons in 2016.

Missiles and air defense systems comprised the largest defense purchases the UAE made from foreign governments last year, at $554 million and $250 million respectively. Naval vessels were the country’s third largest arms import cost at $209 billion. The country has a substantial coastline along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

View of Sydney Harbour, Australia
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3. Australia
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $869 million
> 2016 total arms imports: $1.1 billion
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 82.0%
> 2015 GDP: $1.1 trillion

Australia bought more weapons from the United States last year than any other country outside of the Middle East. The vast majority of Australia’s 2016 arms imports were aircraft and missiles. The United States supplied over 80% of these weapons systems, accounting for $869 million of the country’s total weapons imports. Meanwhile, Italy and France each sold Australia $80 million worth of weapons, and Germany accounted for an additional $32 million of the country’s military spending.

Australia is home to one of the world’s 100 largest defense contractors by revenue. Austel, a shipbuilding company, reported $980 million in arms revenue alone in 2015.

Bagdad, Iraq
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2. Iraq
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $893 million
> 2016 total arms imports: $1.7 billion
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 51.5%
> 2015 GDP: $534 billion

The militaries of few countries are as dependent on the U.S. government as Iraq’s. Since U.S. troops toppled the Iraqi government in 2003, the country has been in a near-perpetual state of disorder. Currently, the Iraqi military, under the guidance of U.S. advisors, is fighting to free parts of northern Iraq from Islamic State control. A major battle is currently underway for the city of Mosul.

Iraq is a major buyer of American weapons. The country imported $893 million worth of U.S. weapons and defense systems in 2016, the second highest sum of any country in the world. Iraqi weapon imports do not come close to the total amount spent by the U.S. in Iraq in recent years. Some estimates put total DoD and State Department spending in Iraq since 2001 at over $800 billion.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Kingdom Tower
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1. Saudi Arabia
> 2016 arms imports from U.S.: $1.9 billion
> 2016 total arms imports: $3.0 billion
> U.S. as % total arms imports: 64.0%
> 2015 GDP: $1.7 trillion

Saudi Arabia’s spending on American arms and weapons systems has increased dramatically in recent years. The oil-rich Middle Eastern country never spent more than $607 million on arms from the United States between 2006 and 2013. Since then, however, spending shot up to well over $1 billion in 2014 and reached $1.9 billion in 2016, the largest amount yet.

In the final weeks of his administration, former President Barack Obama blocked the sale of 16,000 guided munitions kits, used to upgrade missile accuracy, to Saudi Arabia. The move came amidst growing concern among U.S. officials over civilian casualties in Yemen. Saudi Arabia leads a coalition to influence the ongoing civil war in neighboring Yemen. Earlier this month, the Trump administration declared its intentions to move forward with the arms sale.