The Global Weapons Trade
The above visualization sums up the global weapons trade during the Obama era, minus data from 2016. It was created by data scientist Hai Nguyen Mau, and each relationship plots the value of the weapons trade between two countries based on data from SIPRI.
It’s important to note that while this data includes major weaponry transfers such as tanks, jets, missiles, and ships, it excludes guns and ammunition or military aid. Lastly, the thickness of each line represents the total value of each trade relationship, while the proximity of two linked countries shows how close each relationship is. (i.e. if a country only imports from Russia, they will be much closer to Russia than the US)
A Longtail Distribution
The global weapons trade is dominated by a few major exporters, such as United States, EU, and Russia:
Together, the United States, European Union, and Russia combine for over 80% of weapons exports, while the rest of the world fills out the “longtail” of the exporter distribution.
From the perspective of imports, the field is much more equal because almost every country aims to spend at least some money on defense. India is the largest importer of weapons in the world with a 14% share of the market.
Two Distinct Blocs
The picture behind the global weapons trade gets much more interesting as it is broken up into relationships. It’s easy to see that there are two distinct blocs of trade:
The West: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, most of the EU, and other countries
The East: Russia, China, India, Nigeria, and other countries
As an example, Singapore imports 71% of its weapons from the United States along with significant amounts from Germany (10%) and Sweden (6%). As such, it is very close to the United States in these visualizations.
Meanwhile, India imports 70% of its arms from Russia, with the US (12%) and Israel (7%) as other major partners.
Here’s another look from Hai Nguyen Mau that just focuses on US and Russian relationships:
An oversimplification, to be sure – but these visualizations hint at the broader tensions that have recently surfaced to the forefront of geopolitical discourse.