The World’s Biggest Arms Dealers and Their Biggest Clients

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Amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia, East Asia countries and China, and in other areas around the globe, as well as tensions and armed conflicts throughout the Middle East, the production and circulation of military supplies around the world continues to grow.

The United States, Russia, France, Germany, and China were the world’s largest exporters of military supplies in the years 2014-2018 — accounting for 75% of all arms exports, according to the latest report on major arms export volumes published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 11.

While all of the exporters on this list are capable of producing arms of all types, about half (13) of the world’s 25 top arms suppliers are also among the world’s 40 largest importers of military equipment.

The main rationale behind a country’s investments in national arms production is “to preserve its autonomy of supply in arms so [it is] not dependent upon other countries to obtain weapons,” said Aude Fleurant, director of the arms and military expenditure programme with SIPRI, in an email to 24/7 Wall St.

How much and to whom these military supplies are exported hinge on each nation’s obligations to military alliances, the leverage that might be wielded by decreasing or increasing flow of arms during conflicts, as well as modernization of existing arms supplies. Here are the countries increasing their major arms exports the fastest, and these are the countries where arms imports are surging.

“In the context of wars or significant political tensions, a supplier can decide to stop transfers of weapons to a country and therefore severely change the balance of power, creating more volatility,” said Fleurant.

To identify the world’s biggest arms dealers and their biggest clients, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 12 countries with the highest shares of global arms exports in the five year period 2014-18 from the report on major arms export volumes published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 11. SIPRI identified 67 countries as exporters of major arms in 2014-18. Each country’s major clients, all major arms import and export data, as well as annual military expenditures in 2017, also came from SIPRI. Each country’s GDP per capita in 2016 came from the World Bank.

Click here to see the world’s biggest arms dealers and their biggest clients.