U.S. arms exports surged 25 percent over the five years to 2017, according to data released on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “Extending its lead as the world’s biggest arms exporter, the U.S. accounted for 34 percent of total arms exports. Russia, the next biggest exporter, saw its arms sales fall 7.1 percent to 22 percent of global exports compared with the five years to 2012,” reports Bloomberg.
Exports of arms increased to the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, while there was a decrease in the flow of arms to Africa, the Americas and Europe. According to Bloomberg, with the Middle East accounting for 49 percent of total U.S. arms exports, Saudi Arabia was by far its biggest customer. Total arms imports by the kingdom rose 225 percent over the past five years, making it the world’s second-largest importer overall.
“Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights have led to political debate in Western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales. Yet the USA and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 percent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia,” claims Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the Sipri Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
According to Bloomberg, U.S. President Donald Trump has been pushing U.S. arms exports since coming to power at the start of 2017. The U.S. negotiated a package of about $110 billion in arms sales during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May last year. The Trump administration was nearing completion of a new “Buy American” plan that calls for U.S. military attaches and diplomats to help drum up business for the U.S. weapons industry, according to media reports in January.