U.S. Retains Title of World’s Top Arms Dealer, Reaping Half of $80-Billion Global Sales in 2015

Tuesday, December 27, 2016
The Pentagon (photo: Getty Images)


By Thom Shanker, New York Times


WASHINGTON — The United States again ranked first in global weapons sales last year, signing deals for about $40 billion, or half of all agreements in the worldwide arms bazaar and far ahead of France, the No. 2 weapons dealer with $15 billion in sales, according to a new congressional study.


Developing nations continued to be the largest buyers of arms in 2015, with Qatar signing deals for more than $17 billion in weapons last year, followed by Egypt, which agreed to buy almost $12 billion in arms, and Saudi Arabia, with over $8 billion in weapons purchases.


Although global tensions and terrorist threats have shown few signs of diminishing, the total size of the global arms trade dropped to about $80 billion in 2015 from the 2014 total of $89 billion, the study found. Developing nations bought $65 billion in weapons in 2015, substantially lower than the previous year’s total of $79 billion.


The United States and France increased their overseas weapons sales in 2015, as purchases of U.S. weapons grew by about $4 billion and France’s deals increased by well over $9 billion.


The report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015” (pdf), was prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, and delivered to legislators last week. The report adjusts for inflation, so the sales totals are comparable year to year.


Constraints on the expansion of foreign weapons sales are “due, in part, to the weakened state of the global economy,” wrote Catherine A. Theohary, a national security policy specialist at the Congressional Research Service.


“Some nations have chosen to limit their purchasing to upgrades of existing systems and to training and support services,” she said.


Russia, another dominant power in the global arms market, saw a modest decline in orders for its weapons, dropping to $11.1 billion in sales from the $11.2 billion total in 2014. Latin American nations, in particular Venezuela, have become a focus of marketing for Russian arms, the study found.


China reached $6 billion in weapons sales, up from its 2014 total of more than $3 billion.


To Learn More:

Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2007-2014 (by Catherine A. Theohary, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)

U.S. Foreign Arms Sales Skyrocket by 35% (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

U.S. Dominates Weapons Export Market as Profits Grow with Sales to the Middle East (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Steps Up Foreign Weapons Sales, Overwhelming Other Arms Makers (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

U.S. Now Controls More than Half of World Arms Sales (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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