The United States continued to lead the world in arms exports in 2016, netting a 43% increase in sales since President Obama took office in 2009, according to recently released data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Nearly 40% of all international major arms transfers from 2009 to 2016 are from the U.S., almost double the exports from Russia, the next largest seller in the world.
Nearly half of U.S. exports went to the Middle East, but weapons were also sold to countries updating arsenals not involved in any armed conflict, explained Aude-E Fleurant, director of the Arms and Military Expenditure program at SIPRI.
“The U.S. over the past years has been benefiting from large waves of modernization,” she said. “There are oil-rich countries where there is no threat perception that were stuck with old military equipment and decided to use growth in wealth to modernize.”
Heading into the Trump administration, the high level of weapons export is unlikely to change, experts say.
The Obama administration signed almost 200 separate arms deals in the Middle East alone, many of which haven’t been fulfilled yet and can’t be included in SIPRI’s latest figures. (Contracts take years to fulfill and the value and amount of weapons can change, which is why SIPRI only measures arms that are delivered.)
But those deals will move into production in the next year or two, adding to the growing size of U.S. exports.
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