The United States is notably not just by far the world’s largest military force, but also by far the largest supplier of arms.
As the source of approximately 36% of the world’s military exports, the United States is by far the largest exporter of weapons, according to the latest report on major arms export volumes published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 11.
The U.S. has been both the largest exporter of military supplies and the country with the largest military expenditure since the SIPRI started its database in the early 1990s. The U.S.’s outsized share of world arms exports has also increased over the past five years since the previous five-year period through 2013, when 30% of world arms exports came from the United States.
This increase, however, is largely due to deliveries, mainly of F-35 combat jets, over the past five years, said Aude Fleurant, director of the arms and military expenditure programme with SIPRI, in an email to 24/7 Wall St. While the United States will almost certainly remain the dominant exporter of weapons, the large increase in arms exports was due primarily to the nature of cycles and transfers.
The United States supplies arms to at least 98 nations, and it is the largest supplier to 20 of the 40 largest arms importers in the world. These arms include ammunition such as missiles, various aircraft, submarines, surface ships, anti-submarine weaponry, tanks, armoured vehicles, as well as electronics such as radar, sonar, and guiding systems.
The United States selects its clients based on well-established partnerships, as well as for strategic reasons related to the leverage it could gain during conflicts. Of the 25 countries buying the most weapons from the U.S., 10 are either NATO member nations or part of other alliances formed with the United States since the Cold War.
“The US transfers to these countries are meant to ensure allies security, as arms transfers from the US brings with it security guarantees, which basically entail diplomatic and military assistance in case of troubles,” said Fleurant.
To identify the countries buying the most weapons from the U.S. government, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total value of arms exports from the United States over the decade 2008 to 2018 delivered to the 183 countries available in SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Database updated March 11 2019. The arms data cover actual deliveries of major conventional weapons. The first, second, and third largest suppliers to each country came from SIPRI’s major arms export volumes report published March 11, 2019.
These figures do not represent sales prices for arms transfers. They should therefore not be directly compared with gross domestic product (GDP), military expenditure, sales values, or the financial value of export licenses in an attempt to measure the economic burden of arms imports or the economic benefits of exports.
GDP per capita for each country was obtained from the World Bank.