On March 15th, The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its weapon sales report. This time it was focused on the past 5 years, and not just the past year.
Before getting into any detail, it concluded that the US remained the largest weapons exporter on the planet, while Saudi Arabia remained the largest weapons importer.
The five largest arms exporters in 2016–20 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China.
The five largest arms importers were Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China.
Between 2011–15 and 2016–20 there were increases in arms transfers to the Middle East (25%) and to Europe (12%), while there were decreases in the transfers to Africa (–13%), the Americas (–43%), and Asia and Oceania (–8.3%).
The graph below shows the ranking of the exporters, and their largest customers.
Notably, the US has a larger global share of weapon sales than the next 3 countries – Russia, France, Germany – combined. It has slightly less exports than Russia, Germany, France and China combined.
SIPRI has identified 65 states as exporters of major arms in 2016–20. The five largest suppliers of arms during that period—the USA, Russia, France, Germany and China—accounted for 76 per cent of all arms exports. France had the highest increase in arms exports among the top five. US and German arms exports also grew, while Russian and Chinese arms exports decreased. The top 25 arms exporters accounted for 99% of global exports of major arms in 2016–20. States in North America and Europe together accounted for 86% of all arms exports.
The USA delivered major arms to 96 states in 2016–20, a far higher number of recipients than any other supplier. In 2016–20 total arms exports by the USA were 85% higher than those of Russia—the second largest exporter—compared with 24% higher in 2011–15.
Almost half (47%) of US arms exports went to the Middle East in 2016–20, an increase of 28% on the previous five-year period.
In 2016–20 Russia delivered major arms to 45 states and accounted for 20% of total global arms exports. India remained the main recipient of Russian arms in 2016–20, accounting for 23% of the total, followed by China (18%) and Algeria (15%).
Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest arms importer in 2016–20 and received 11% of global arms imports. The USA accounted for 79 % of Saudi Arabian arms imports in 2016–20, followed by the UK with 9.3%. In 2016–20 Saudi Arabia strengthened its long-range strike capabilities with 91 combat aircraft from the USA and 15 from the UK. It also imported 14 air defense systems from the USA. By the end of 2020 several large deliveries of major arms were outstanding, including for 61 combat aircraft, 4 frigates and 7 anti-ballistic missile systems from the USA, and 5 frigates from Spain. Saudi Arabia is therefore expected to remain among the world’s largest arms importers in the coming five years.
The stage is set, the Middle East will likely receive the majority of the world’s weapons exports in the next 5 years, and many of the hotspots are likely to get even hotter.
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