The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says the flow of arms from recognised producers to conflict zones continues unabated.
The think tank’s 2008 yearbook says approximately 80% of the volume of exports of major conventional weapons for the period 2003–2007 were accounted for by the five largest suppliers—the USA, Russia, Germany, France and the UK.
The largest recipient countries were China, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Greece and South Korea.
However, 2007 gave the first signs of a potentially significant change among the largest recipients, with decreased deliveries to and orders by China. “The largest suppliers to Asia and the Middle East will continue to engage in intense competition for export orders, with Libya and Saudi Arabia likely to become large recipients once again.”
SIPRI says arms suppliers meet the demand for weapons that a conflict creates for a number of reasons: to gain political and economic influence, to substitute for an interested external party`s direct military presence and to meet the powerful economic pressures to sell arms.
The international transfer of arms to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Sudan illustrates a number of related tendencies. “First, UN arms embargoes imposed on armed non-state actors have thus far failed to stop their arms acquisitions.
“Second, major arms suppliers have been willing to show their support for the government in a conflict zone by directly supplying it with arms. Third, internationally sanctioned peacekeeping operations often struggle to obtain suitable arms and military equipment,” the think tank says.