Special Report

Nations Buying the Most Weapons and Their Biggest Suppliers

European nations increased arms imports by 47% in 2018-2022 compared to the previous five-year period. This increase, part of the findings of a report released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, is likely at least in part a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war being fought there. The war-torn nation has received tens of billions in aid from the United States and other countries, and Ukraine’s neighbors have been arming themselves as well. 

To determine the countries importing the most weapons, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2022 report by SIPRI. Countries are ranked by their share of imported arms out of global import volume from 2018 to 2022. Because volume can fluctuate greatly from year to year, SIPRI tracks arms transfers in five-year periods. Supplemental data on annual military expenditure in current U.S. dollars and military spending as a share of GDP are also from SIPRI and are for 2021, the most recent year for which data is available.

For the most recent five-year period, Ukraine is tied with Norway for the 14th largest importer of weapons, with 2% of the world’s imports from 2018 to 2022. Unsurprisingly, that figure represents a substantial increase from the previous five-year period. Between 2013 and 2017, Ukraine accounted for less than 0.05% of the world’s weapons imports, and arms exports to the country increased a staggering 8,631% between those two periods. 

Ukraine’s largest supplier is the United States, which just this month pledged its 33rd weapons aid package to the country, bringing the total it has supplied the beleaguered nation to more than $30 billion. In fact, the U.S. is the single largest supplier of arms for 19 of the 40 largest global weapons importers, and is among the top three sellers for 27. Another major supplier of arms to Ukraine is Poland, a nation that, like many of Ukraine’s European neighbors, has a keen vested interest in the outcome of the war. (These are the countries buying the most weapons from the U.S. government.)

A new entry to the list this year is not a country at all, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which accounted for 0.7% of global arms imports in the most recent period. Like Ukraine, that figure is up from less than 0.05% just five years ago. This does not include the additional imports of NATO member states, of which both the United States and Poland are members, but the organization itself. (These are all the NATO members ranked by military power.)

Click here to see the nations importing the most weapons and their biggest suppliers.

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