The Cost of the U.S. Arms Trade

The global arms trade is big business and the United States accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s weapons exports. Aside from the profit motivation, selling arms abroad can be an effective foreign policy tool, allowing the United States to exert influence over conflict and security worldwide without having to put boots on the ground. But are the risks worth the reward?

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
x
Host
  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting
Credits

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Christa N. Almonte
    Military Fellow, U.S. Navy
  • William D. Hartung
    Senior Research Fellow, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Rachel Stohl
    Vice President of Research Programs, Stimson Center

Show Notes

The United States is the world’s top arms exporter, with 2020 sales from leading U.S. producers reaching $285 billion. It’s a lucrative business, but arms trade is also part of Washington’s foreign policy: it’s used to support U.S. allies, as leverage in international agreements, and even to help one side over another during a conflict. In this episode, Why It Matters explores the global implications of arms trade, and the responsibilities and moral burdens that come with the United States’ outsize role. 

 

 

Graphics

 

 

 

 

 

 

From CFR

 

Lauren Kahn, “A Refreshed Autonomous Weapons Policy Will Be Critical for U.S. Global Leadership Moving Forward,” Renewing America 

 

Rebecca Lissner, “The Future of Strategic Arms Control” 

 

U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Control

 

 

From Our Guests

 

Diana Ohlbaum and Rachel Stohl, “Yes, Congress, There Is Something You Can Do About Reckless Arms Sales,” Just Security

 

Rachel Stohl, “Improving U.S. Conventional Arms Policies,” Arms Control Association

 

William D. Hartung, “Bombs & Guns: Biden’s ‘Business as Usual’ Approach to U.S. Arms Sales,” Responsible Statecraft

 

William D. Hartung, “Promoting Stability or Fueling Conflict? The Impact of U.S. Arms Sales on National and Global Security,” Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft


 

Read More

 

Connor Echols, “Where Are Our Weapons Going? U.S. Transparency Is Taking a Nosedive,” Responsible Statecraft

 

Andrew Feinstein, The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 

Editorial Board, “Yemen Crisis Underlines a Shift in Arms Exports,” Financial Times

 

 

Watch and Listen

 

The Future of Arms Control, With Rose Gottemoeller,” The President’s Inbox

 

The Global Arms Trade: Assessing Trends and Future Outlook,” Stimson Center

 

The Real Harm of the Global Arms Trade | Samantha Nutt,” TED Talks Live 

 

Who Profits From the Global Arms Trade?,” Deutsche Welle

West Africa

West Africa is losing many of its best and brightest. Across the region, doctors, lawyers, and engineers are leaving, depriving some of the world’s youngest countries of the minds they need to develop sustainably. At the same time, coups have rocked the nearby Sahel, threatening to create a corrosive cycle of instability. Can West Africa quell the tide of emigration?

Maternal and Child Health

In the past thirty years, sixty countries have expanded access to abortion care as an underpinning of maternal health. The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade made the United States the fourth country ever to decrease access to abortion—and the world took notice. Some countries have since reinforced protections for abortion care, while others have moved to further restrict it.

India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most popular man in India. On track to be elected for a third term, he has boosted the country’s global standing and propelled strong economic growth while consolidating power and galvanizing majoritarian support for his Hindu nationalist agenda—all while growing closer to the United States. How could Hindu nationalism reshape India?

Top Stories on CFR

United Kingdom

CFR experts discuss the results of presidential elections in France and the United Kingdom, as well as what to expect from the 2024 NATO Summit in Washington, DC.

Election 2024

Each Friday, I look at what the presidential contenders are saying about foreign policy. This Week: Republicans are gathering in Milwaukee next week optimistic about their chances in November.  

France

The surprising shift to the left in snap elections has broken the far-right populist fever in France, but now a crisis of governability looms in Paris that has further weakened President Emmanuel Macron’s grip on power.