Special Report

Most Corrupt Countries the U.S. Is Selling Weapons To

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While early in his tenure President Joe Biden pledged that his approach to selling arms around the world would differ from that of his predecessor, recent data reveals a continuity between the two administrations. Since 2021, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars of weapons to authoritarian regimes perceived as corrupt by international experts and businesspeople.

To determine the most corrupt countries the U.S. is selling weapons to, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on perceived corruption from Transparency International and annual arms sales from the U.S. government. Countries with at least $1 million total arms imports from the United States from 2021 to 2022 were ranked based on their 2022 Corruptions Perceptions Index score, a measure of how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be, according to experts and businesspeople. (Here are the most corrupt countries in the world.)

While in Biden’s 2022 State of the Union Address the president described contemporary geopolitics as a “battle between democracy and autocracies,” many of the countries the U.S. is selling weapons to are classified as autocracies. Since 2021, the U.S. has sold an estimated $11.4 billion to regimes classified as electoral autocracies by the Varieties of Democracy project of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and $7.6 billion in weapons to regimes classified as closed autocracies — together amounting to 22.0% of total weapons sales. (These are countries that buy the most weapons from the American Army.)

The Forum on the Arms Trade, a network of civil society experts and analysts, catalogs controversial arms sales by the Biden administration. Since 2021, for example, the U.S. has sold the Egyptian government over $3.5 billion in weapons, among the most of any country. The sales of military aircraft and air defense radar systems occurred amidst concerns in Washington over human rights abuses in Egypt, and just months after the State Department had placed a hold on $130 million in military aid to the country. Egypt scores 30 out of 100 on Transparency International’s 2022 Corruptions Perceptions Index score, ranking as the 50th most corrupt country in the world. 

Since 2021, the U.S. has sold an estimated $5 million in weapons to Haiti, one of the most notoriously corrupt countries worldwide. In one instance, the U.S. sold armored vehicles and other supplies to the Haitian government to help police fight a local gang. Haiti scores 17 out of 100 on the 2022 CPI, ranking as the 10th most corrupt country.

Click here to see the most corrupt countries the U.S. is selling weapons to.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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25. Turkey
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 36/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $488.8 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 84.8 million

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24. Indonesia
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 34/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $112.3 million
> Government classification: Electoral democracy
> Total population: 273.8 million

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23. Algeria
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 33/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $3.6 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 44.2 million

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22. El Salvador
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 33/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $4.6 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 6.3 million

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21. Philippines
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 33/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $229.7 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 113.9 million

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20. Ukraine
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 33/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $2.6 billion
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 43.8 million

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19. Dominican Republic
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 32/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $14.7 million
> Government classification: Electoral democracy
> Total population: 11.1 million

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18. Kenya
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 32/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $5.8 million
> Government classification: Electoral democracy
> Total population: 53.0 million

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17. Niger
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 32/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $2.1 million
> Government classification: Electoral democracy
> Total population: 25.3 million

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16. Mexico
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 31/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $112.5 million
> Government classification: Electoral democracy
> Total population: 126.7 million

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15. Uzbekistan
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 31/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $14.2 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 34.9 million

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14. Djibouti
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 30/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $6.2 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 1.1 million

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13. Egypt
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 30/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $3.5 billion
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 109.3 million

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12. Mauritania
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 30/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $3.5 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 4.6 million

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11. Papua New Guinea
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 30/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $2.0 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 9.9 million

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10. Pakistan
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 27/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $117.4 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 231.4 million

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9. Bangladesh
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 25/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $27.5 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 169.4 million

8. Afghanistan
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 24/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $710.7 million
> Government classification: Closed autocracy
> Total population: 40.1 million

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7. Guatemala
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 24/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $28.8 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 17.1 million

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6. Lebanon
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 24/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $211.3 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 5.6 million

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5. Tajikistan
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 24/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $3.9 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 9.8 million

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4. Iraq
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 23/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $845.7 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 43.5 million

3. Chad
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 19/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $2.3 million
> Government classification: Closed autocracy
> Total population: 17.2 million

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2. Turkmenistan
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 19/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $3.3 million
> Government classification: Closed autocracy
> Total population: 6.3 million

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1. Haiti
> Corruptions Perceptions Index score: 17/100
> U.S. arms imports, 2021-2022: $5.0 million
> Government classification: Electoral autocracy
> Total population: 11.4 million

Methodology

To determine the most corrupt countries the U.S. is selling weapons to, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on perceived corruption from Transparency International and annual arms sales from the U.S. government. Countries with at least $1 million total arms imports from the United States from 2021 to 2022 were ranked based on their 2022 Corruptions Perceptions Index score, a measure of how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be, according to experts and businesspeople. 

Weapons sales were tallied from two sources — foreign military sales data via the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency and direct commercial sales data from the U.S. State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Government classifications are from the Varieties of Democracy project of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Data on population came from the World Bank and is for 2021.

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