Countries that are Trading the Most Weapons

weapons trade mapIn March 2016, the United States approved a deal to sell nearly $700 million dollars worth of smart bombs to the Turkish government. This purchase is part of the US’s Foreign Military Sales program, which uses the US government as an intermediary in facilitating arms sales to foreign countries. Not only do these weapons bring in revenue for the the United States, but they are a key part of the US’s foreign policy. With arms playing such an integral role in the world’s economy and stability, we wanted to know: what are the biggest countries in the global arms trade?

Well, first of all, “the arms trade” refers to more than just weapons or armaments. It includes military information, vehicles, and technology alongside traditional guns, bombs, and bullets. Most countries are unable to produce or develop modern military technology, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the global total for military expenditures for 2014 was roughly $1.7 trillion dollars, making up more than 2% of the entire world’s GDP. That’s nearly $250 for every person on earth. There are nearly 900 million small arms and light weapons estimated in circulation, and almost one million small arms alone produced annually. This is on top of thousands of tanks, aircraft, and warships. So who is making all this equipment? Well, the biggest weapons and technology exporter in the world, by a large margin, is the United States. It supplies roughly one-third of the global arms trade, and in 2015 saw nearly $50 billion dollars in foreign military sales.

Four of the top five largest defense contractors in the world are American companies. With such a massive military budget, the US economy is actually optimized to profit off of global conflict. American weapons made by American companies bring in billions and help to outgun anti-American interests by supplying allied forces. The next four largest exporters combined,

Russia, Germany, France, and China, barely outspend the United States. So where do these weapons go, and why? Well, the single largest purchaser of military equipment is Saudi Arabia, which spent roughly 6.5 billion dollars in 2014. Although Saudi Arabia is not a particularly large country compared to others on the list, it holds a unique and potentially dangerous position in the Middle East. With nearby Iran dwarfing the Saudis in military size, Saudi Arabia is forced to compete by using the latest military equipment, primarily bought from the United States.

But although the arms trade is intended to support allied nations, it is also how dangerous groups can get their weapons. For example, while Iraq is the 6th largest recipient of foreign arms, there have been many reports that ISIS members are buying or seizing American made weapons. Recent videos show ISIS using M-16s, manufactured in the US. So while it may not be the case that the arms trade keeps everyone safe, there’s no question that it makes its participants a huge amount of money.

But while the arms trade takes up a huge portion of the US’s budget and revenue, few weapons are as expensive or as dangerous as nuclear weapons.

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