Mar 16, 2021 - World

U.S. dominates global arms sales, with Saudi Arabia the top customer

Top arms buyers, 2016-2020

The U.S. accounted for 37% of all global arms exports over the last five years, with Saudi Arabia — easily the world’s top arms buyer — accounting for one-quarter of those sales, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

By the numbers: U.S. arms exports rose by 15% from 2011-2015 to 2016-2020, with 96 countries buying arms from America. Russia remained the second-largest exporter with 20% of the market, but supplied a smaller pool of 44 countries and saw sales fall by 22% from the previous five years due primarily to a decrease in sales to India.

  • The next largest arms exporters were France (8% of the total), Germany (5%) and China (5%). China’s sales also slid by 8% in the past five years, while exports from Europe increased significantly.
  • Israel and South Korea both accounted for about 3% of the total after significantly increasing their exports over the past five years.

Zoom in: Russia had four major clients that accounted for two-thirds of all exports — India, China, Algeria and Egypt — while Pakistan was by far China’s biggest client.

  • The U.S. had a diversified pool of major buyers: Saudi Arabia, Australia, South Korea, Japan, the UAE, Qatar, Israel and the U.K.

The big picture: Arms imports overall were flat between 2011–2015 and 2016–2020, but rose in the Middle East (+25%) while falling in the Americas (-43%), Africa (-13%), and Asia and Oceania (-8.3%).

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