Weapons/Arms Stockpile
An assortment of 5250 illicit firearms and small weapons, recovered during various security operations is arranged in different stock-piles before its destruction in Ngong hills near Kenya's capital Nairobi, Nov.15, 2016. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

With an uptick in the volume of international arms exchange estimated to be at its highest in 2012–16 for any five-year period since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the world may be a far more dangerous place now than ever, according to newly released data.

The data on arms transfers published Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that with a one-third share during the same period, the United States was the biggest global arms exporter. The U.S. also saw its arms exports climb by 21 percent when matched with data from the 2007–11 period, almost half of it going to the Middle East.

“The USA supplies major arms to at least 100 countries around the world—significantly more than any other supplier state,” Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said in a statement. The bulk of the U.S. arms exports included the latest-generation air and missile defense systems along with advanced strike aircraft with cruise missiles and other precision-guided weapons.

The report noted an increase of 8.4 percent in global arms trade between the periods, 2007–11 and 2012–16. During the same time period, the flow of arms increased to Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, but decreased to Europe, the Americas and Africa. With 13 percent of the global total, India was the world’s largest importer of major arms.

"With no regional arms control instruments in place, states in Asia continue to expand their arsenals. ... While China is increasingly able to substitute arms imports with indigenous products, India remains dependent on weapons technology from many willing suppliers, including Russia, the USA, European states, Israel and South Korea," Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, explained in a press release.

However, more worrisome than an increase in the volume of the global arms trade is the rapidly expanding international black market trade. An yearlong investigation carried out by a team of reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published in June last year, for instance, revealed the discreet sale of arms and ammunition amounting to more than 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) was responsible in fueling the civil war in Syria.

The investigation found out Eastern European countries have exported weapons to Middle Eastern nations, from where they are dispatched to key arms markets in Syria and Yemen. The report also suggested U.S. involvement. To try and counter the spread of the Islamic State group, Washington reportedly bought and delivered large amounts of military equipment for the Syrian opposition sourced from central and eastern Europe.

According to American procurement documents and ship tracking data, three cargo ships commissioned by the U.S. military's Special Operations Command have left Black Sea ports in the Balkans for the Middle East since December 2015.

Approximately 4,700 tons of weaponry has been delivered from Bulgaria and Romania to military facilities in Jordan and Turkey. On June 21, the latest U.S.-chartered ship left Bulgaria carrying about 1,700 tons of materiel for an unidentified Red Sea port.