2021 Arms Sales Risk Index

The Cato Institute has recently released their Arms Sales Risk Index for the year 2021. This tool is meant to help inform policymakers as to which nations the U.S. should and should not provide weapons. As stated in the report, “By measuring the factors linked to negative outcomes of arms sales, such as dispersion, diversion, and the misuse of weapons by recipients, the index provides a way to assess the risk involved with selling arms to another nation.

The authors analyze four factors to measure the risk of selling arms to another nation: Corruption, Instability, Domestic human rights, and Conflict. Each nation is assessed a “risk score” (from 1 to 100) indicating the level of risk involved in dealing with that country. Among the nations with the highest risk scores are Syria (96), Yemen (94), and Afghanistan (93). Of the countries that were the U.S.’s biggest customers over 2002-2019, Iran (89), Pakistan (79), Egypt (78), and Turkey (78) possess the highest risk.

The 2021 index also contains a special section examining risk associated specifically with the transfer of small arms and light weapons (SALW). The authors explore three case studies in Mexico, the Philippines, and Ethiopia that illustrate the connection between SALW sales and the violence and corruption occurring in these nations.


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