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 around $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 American weapons grew by around $4 billion and France’s deals increased by well over $9 billion.
The report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015,” was prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, and delivered to legislators last week. The annual review is considered the most comprehensive assessment of global arms sales available in an unclassified form. 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 and author of the study.
“Concerns over their domestic budget problems have led many purchasing nations to defer or limit the purchase of new major weapon systems,” she added. “Some nations have chosen to limit their purchasing to upgrades of existing systems and to training and support services.”
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 over $3 billion.
Among arms manufacturers that also are NATO allies, Germany has found success in marketing naval systems to the developing world, while Britain has done the same with warplanes, according to the report.
The most significant overseas weapons sales for the United States last year included new agreements with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar and South Korea.
Over all, the largest buyers of weapons in the developing world in 2015 were Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Pakistan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq. After the United States, France, Russia and China, the study found that the major global arms suppliers were Sweden, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Britain and Israel.