Since becoming the largest arms exporter during the Cold War, the United States has used the sale of fighter jets, artillery, tanks, and small arms as a tool to influence the outcome of wars and the global balance of power. For the Cold War, it was done to counter the spread of Soviet influence of communism in conflicted countries. Under the Raegan administration, arms export was a key component to the Iran-Contra Affair and the Soviet-Afghan War. Arguably the tactic was successful for both the Contras in the Nicaraguan civil war and the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, but the consequences of supplying these actors became known as blowback. The Contras were found to conduct multiple human rights abuses using US support, while the mujahideen formed into the Taliban and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, which the US fought after the 9/11 attacks. US forces fighting previously supported actors has become a common theme in history, but that has not stopped the trend of arms export use.
During the Global War on Terror, arms export was used against the spread of terrorism in the Middle East, but it wasn't until the intervention in Ukraine did it become a tool to constrict Russia's influence since the Cold War. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the US conducted arms exports to Ukraine to support its civil war against the Russian-backed separatists. In 2022, arms export to the country increased massively, passing $30 billion to date since the Russian invasion began. Like the Soviet-Afghan War, the arms being provided are making real results in Ukraine's defense of the capital and furthering its capability for counter-offensives against Russian gains. However, as seen in the past, blowback can strike again depending on what is done with the arms after the war ends, or worse if Russia succeeds and takes control of the provided arms, becoming a major threat to national security. Yet the benefits to this risk are the subversion of a greater nuclear conflict between NATO and Russia, which is why arms export are the greatest foreign policy tool to support our interests globally.