Arms Transfers: US and Russia's Biggest Trading Partners – Visual Capitalist

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This graphic highlights trade partners for U.S. and Russia arms transfers
The increase in conflicts worldwide, including in Ukraine and the Middle East, has shifted global focus back onto arms transfers between countries.
For decades, countries proficient in arms manufacturing have supplied weapons to other countries in demand of them. At the helm of these trades are the U.S. and Russia, which have accounted for 57% of all international arms trades in the last 10 years.
So who are the largest importers of arms from these two countries, and what is the military value of these trades?
With the help of data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) arms transfer database, the above infographic by Ruben Berge Mathisen visualizes the top 50 biggest arms recipients by value for both the U.S. and Russia in the last decade.
The military valuation of arms is measured in terms of trend-indicator values (TIV). This valuation reflects the military capability of a particular item rather than its financial value.
Every weapon that falls under the conventional definition of major arms is allotted a TIV. The following are the most common weapons and components to be assigned a TIV.
Instead of focusing on budget, examining TIV makes it easier to measure trends in the flow of arms between particular countries and regions over time, essentially creating a military capability price index.
The United States is the largest exporter of arms globally, responsible for 35% of global exports over the last 10 years to about 130 nations.
Most recently, the biggest market for U.S. arms sales has been in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia being the most prominent recipient of weapons. Over the last decade, the country has purchased 24% of total U.S. arms exports, with components worth over 18 billion TIVs.
Here is a look at the top 50 recipients of arms from the United States:

U.S. Arms Transfer Recipient Continent TIV (Millions)
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia Asia 18,641
🇦🇺 Australia Oceania 8,668
🇰🇷 South Korea Asia 7,207
🇦🇪 UAE Asia 7,190
🇯🇵 Japan Asia 5,026
🇮🇳 India Asia 4,614
🇬🇧 United Kingdom Europe 4,332
🇶🇦 Qatar Asia 4,235
🇹🇼 Taiwan Asia 3,789
🇹🇷 Turkey Asia 3,722
🇮🇶 Iraq Asia 3,532
🇮🇱 Israel Asia 3,460
🇸🇬 Singapore Asia 2,571
🇦🇫 Afghanistan Asia 2,547
🇪🇬 Egypt Africa 2,334
🇮🇹 Italy Europe 2,281
🇲🇦 Morocco Africa 2,281
🇳🇴 Norway Europe 2,196
🇳🇱 Netherlands Europe 2,060
🇰🇼 Kuwait Asia 1,900
🇨🇦 Canada Americas 1,806
🇵🇰 Pakistan Asia 1,070
🇮🇩 Indonesia Asia 982
🇲🇽 Mexico Americas 782
🇴🇲 Oman Asia 779
🇯🇴 Jordan Asia 675
🇩🇰 Denmark Europe 548
🇧🇷 Brazil Americas 510
🇸🇪 Sweden Europe 505
🇨🇴 Colombia Americas 472
🇵🇭 Philippines Asia 450
🇫🇷 France Europe 438
🇫🇮 Finland Europe 389
🇬🇷 Greece Europe 359
🇱🇧 Lebanon Asia 350
🇹🇭 Thailand Asia 342
🇵🇱 Poland Europe 336
🇨🇱 Chile Americas 335
🇪🇸 Spain Europe 292
🇷🇴 Romania Europe 275
🇹🇳 Tunisia Africa 251
🇩🇪 Germany Europe 221
🇧🇭 Bahrain Asia 187
🇵🇹 Portugal Europe 179
🇳🇬 Nigeria Africa 154
🇳🇿 New Zealand Oceania 150
🇧🇩 Bangladesh Asia 123
🇨🇭 Switzerland Europe 117
🇻🇳 Vietnam Asia 108
🇦🇷 Argentina Americas 103

The U.S. remains the biggest global exporter of weapons globally, however, sales of military equipment to foreign countries dipped by 21% over the previous fiscal year, dropping from $175 billion in 2020 to $138 billion in 2021.
Russia, the world’s second-largest arms dealer, was responsible for 22% of global arms exports between 2011 and 2021.
In terms of TIVs, India remains the biggest importer of Russian weapons by a wide margin. India’s dependency on Russian-made arms is driven by its fight to quell the military assertiveness of China on one side and its constant skirmishes along the Pakistani border on the other.
But despite the continued support of Russia and its President by the Indian Prime Minister, even in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine, some reports have shown that India has been looking elsewhere for arms in the last few years.
Let’s take a look at some of the other biggest importers of Russian arms around the world:

Russian Arms Transfer Recipient Continent TIV (Millions)
🇮🇳 India Asia 22,869
🇨🇳 China Asia 9,419
🇩🇿 Algeria Africa 7,235
🇻🇳 Vietnam Asia 5,554
🇪🇬 Egypt Africa 3,998
🇮🇶 Iraq Asia 2,015
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan Asia 1,967
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan Asia 1,841
🇻🇪 Venezuela Americas 1,743
🇸🇾 Syria Asia 1,729
🇧🇾 Belarus Europe 1,190
🇲🇲 Myanmar Asia 856
🇺🇬 Uganda Africa 611
🇦🇪 UAE Asia 578
🇦🇴 Angola Africa 501
🇮🇩 Indonesia Asia 490
🇮🇷 Iran Asia 476
🇧🇩 Bangladesh Asia 454
🇦🇫 Afghanistan Asia 441
🇵🇰 Pakistan Asia 437
🇦🇲 Armenia Asia 373
🇹🇷 Turkey Asia 344
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan Asia 307
🇷🇸 Serbia Europe 296
🇳🇬 Nigeria Africa 249
🇸🇩 Sudan Africa 244
🇵🇪 Peru Americas 221
🇯🇴 Jordan Asia 204
🇲🇳 Mongolia Asia 171
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan Asia 156
🇳🇮 Nicaragua Americas 121
🇱🇦 Laos Asia 118
🇰🇼 Kuwait Asia 113
🇧🇷 Brazil Americas 98
🇸🇸 South Sudan Africa 82
🇲🇱 Mali Africa 73
🇪🇹 Ethiopia Africa 69
🇹🇭 Thailand Asia 68
🇿🇦South Africa Africa 50
🇨🇲 Cameroon Africa 45
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan Asia 41
🇷🇼 Rwanda Africa 41
🇶🇦 Qatar Asia 40
🇱🇾 Libya Africa 36
🇧🇭 Bahrain Asia 31
🇹🇯 Tajikistan Asia 30
🇨🇾 Cyprus Asia 28
🇨🇬 Republic of the Congo Africa 27
🇬🇭 Ghana Africa 27
🇺🇦 Ukraine Rebels Europe 24

One relationship of significance is Russia’s provided weapons to Pro-Russia Ukrainian Rebels. Since 2014, Russia has offered arms and training to these rebels in their fight. These have included weapons of all sorts, from pistols and mines to tanks and missile launchers.
According to the latest data from SIPRI, the international arms trade fell by 4.6% in the last five-year period. Despite this, Europe has become a new hotspot for arms imports, seeing a 19% increase in arms transfers over the same time period.
Countries like the U.K., Netherlands, and Norway were the largest importers, and other countries might follow suit.
Experts claim that this upsurge is attributed to the crumbling relationship between Russia and Europe. Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries have been reevaluating their defense budgets—as exemplified by Germany’s recent €100 billion commitment to boost its military strength.
In the coming years, the U.S. and Russia’s biggest arms transfer partners are likely to shift. But which way will arms transfers trend?
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
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Russia faces a multitude of U.S. sanctions for its participation in global conflicts. This infographic lists who and what has been impacted.
When a direct military confrontation is off the table, how should countries respond to acts of foreign aggression?
One tactic is sanctioning, which applies economic restrictions on a country’s government, businesses, and even individual citizens. In theory, these penalties create enough impact to dissuade further hostility.
Today, the U.S. maintains more sanctions than any other country, and one of its most comprehensive programs is aimed at Russia. To learn more, we’ve compiled an overview of these sanctions using data from the Congressional Research Service and U.S. Treasury.
Sanctions are often introduced after a President issues an executive order (EO) that declares a national emergency. This provides special powers to regulate commerce with an aggressor nation.
Our starting point will be Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, as this is where a majority of ongoing sanctions have originated.
On March 18, 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. This was denounced by the U.S. and its allies, leading them to impose wide-reaching sanctions. President Obama’s EOs are listed below.
Altogether, these sanctions affect 480 entities (includes businesses and government agencies), 253 individuals, 7 vessels, and 3 aircraft.
Sanctions against ships and planes may seem odd, but these assets are often owned by sanctioned entities. For example, in February 2022, France seized a cargo ship belonging to a sanctioned Russian bank.
The Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have all imposed sanctions against Russia for its malicious cyber activities.
Altogether, these sanctions affect 106 entites, 136 individuals, 6 aircraft, and 2 vessels. A critical target is the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company notorious for its online influence operations.
Prior to the 2016 election, 3,000 IRA-sponsored ads reached up to 10 million Americans on Facebook. This problem escalated in the run-up to the 2020 election, with 140 million Americans being exposed to propaganda on a monthly basis.
The U.S. maintains various sanctions designed to counteract Russian influence in Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea.
*These are recent sanctions pursuant to EOs that were issued many years prior. For example, EO 13582 was introduced in August 2011.
These sanctions impact 23 entities, 17 individuals, and 7 vessels. Specific entities include Rosoboronexport, a state-owned arms exporter which was sanctioned for supplying the Syrian government.
As of December 2020, Syria’s government was responsible for the deaths of 156,329 people (civilians and combatants) in the civil war.
The Russian government has been accused of poisoning two individuals in recent years.
The first incident involved Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who was allegedly poisoned in March 2018 on UK soil. The second, Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, was allegedly poisoned in August 2020.
The Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) allows sanctions against foreign governments that use chemical weapons. Nine individuals and five entities were sanctioned as a result of the two cases.
The U.S. has introduced many more sanctions in response to Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine.
EO 14024, which was issued in February 2022, targets Russia’s major financial institutions and their subsidiaries (83 entities in total). Included in this list are the country’s two largest banks, Sberbank and VTB Bank. Together, they hold more than half of all Russian banking assets.
Also targeted are 13 private and state-owned companies deemed to be critical to the Russian economy. Included in this 13 are Rostelecom, Russia’s largest digital services provider, and Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company.
Proving that a sanction was solely responsible for an outcome is impossible, though there have been successes in the past. For example, many agree that sanctions played an important role in ending Libya’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
Critics of sanctions argue that imposing economic distress on a country can lead to unintended consequences. One of these is a shift away from the U.S. financial system.
There is no alternative to the dollar and no export market as attractive as the United States. But if Washington continues to force other nations to go along with policies that they consider both illegal and unwise … they are likely to shift away from the United States’ economy and financial system.
Jacob J. Lew, Former Secretary of the Treasury
In other words, sanctions can create an impact as long as the U.S. dollar continues to reign supreme.
Nuclear weapons have devastating effects, but the science of how they work is atomically small. So, how do nuclear weapons work?
In 1945, the world’s first-ever nuclear weapon was detonated at the Trinity test site in New Mexico, United States, marking the beginning of the Atomic Age.
Since then, the global nuclear stockpile has multiplied, and when geopolitical tensions rise, the idea of a nuclear apocalypse understandably causes widespread concern.
But despite their catastrophically large effects, the science of how nuclear weapons work is atomically small.
All matter is composed of atoms, which host different combinations of three particles—protons, electrons, and neutrons. Nuclear weapons work by capitalizing on the interactions of protons and neutrons to create an explosive chain reaction.
At the center of every atom is a core called the nucleus, which is composed of closely-bound protons and neutrons. While the number of protons is unique to each element in the periodic table, the number of neutrons can vary. As a result, there are multiple “species” of some elements, known as isotopes.
For example, here are some isotopes of uranium:
These isotopes can be stable or unstable. Stable isotopes have a relatively static or unchanging number of neutrons. But when a chemical element has too many neutrons, it becomes unstable or fissile.
When fissile isotopes attempt to become stable, they shed excess neutrons and energy. This energy is where nuclear weapons get their explosivity from.
There are two types of nuclear weapons:
So, what exactly is the difference between fission and fusion reactions?
Nuclear fission—the process used by nuclear reactors—produces large amounts of energy by breaking apart a heavier unstable atom into two smaller atoms, starting a nuclear chain reaction.
When a neutron is fired into the nucleus of a fissile atom like uranium-235, the uranium atom splits into two smaller atoms known as “fissile fragments” in addition to more neutrons and energy. These excess neutrons can then start a self-sustaining chain reaction by hitting the nuclei of other uranium-235 atoms, resulting in an atomic explosion.
Atomic bombs use nuclear fission, though it’s important to note that a fission chain reaction requires a particular amount of a fissile material like uranium-235, known as the supercritical mass.
Hydrogen bombs use a combination of fission and fusion, with nuclear fusion amplifying a fission reaction to produce a much more powerful explosion than atomic bombs.
Fusion is essentially the opposite of fission—instead of splitting a heavier atom into smaller atoms, it works by putting together two atoms to form a third unstable atom. It’s also the same process that fuels the Sun.
Nuclear fusion mainly relies on isotopes of lighter elements, like the two isotopes of hydrogen—deuterium and tritium. When subjected to intense heat and pressure, these two atoms fuse together to form an extremely unstable helium isotope, which releases energy and neutrons.
The released neutrons then fuel the fission reactions of heavier atoms like uranium-235, creating an explosive chain reaction.
Just how powerful are hydrogen bombs, and how do they compare to atomic bombs?
The bombs Little Boy and Fat Man were used in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, bringing a destructive end to World War II. The scale of these bombings was, at the time, unparalleled. But comparing these to hydrogen bombs shows just how powerful nuclear weapons have become.
Castle Bravo was the codename for the United States’ largest-ever nuclear weapon test, a hydrogen bomb that produced a yield of 15,000 kilotons—making it 1,000 times more powerful than Little Boy. What’s more, radioactive traces from the explosion, which took place on the Marshall Islands near Fiji, were found in Australia, India, Japan, U.S., and Europe.
Seven years later, the Soviet Union tested Tsar Bomba in 1961, the world’s most powerful nuclear weapon. The explosion produced 51,000 kilotons of explosive energy, with a destructive radius of roughly 60km.
Given how damaging a single nuke can be, it’s difficult to imagine the outcome of an actual nuclear conflict without fear of total annihilation, especially with the world’s nuclear arsenal sitting at over 13,000 warheads.
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