Continuing an upward trend that began in the early 2000s, the volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2013/17 was 10% higher than in 2008/12, new data on arms transfers published this month by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows.
The flow of arms increased to Asia, Oceania and the Middle East between 2008/12 and 2013/17, while there was a decrease in the flow to Africa, the Americas and Europe. The five biggest exporters—the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China — together accounted for 74% of all arms exports in 2013/17.
“The increased flow of arms raises concerns over their impact on international peace and security. It stresses the need to improve and implement international mechanisms such as the Arms Trade Treaty,” Ambassador Jan Eliasson, SIPRI Governing Board chairman, said.
Arms exporters: US extends its lead
In 2013/17 the US accounted for 34% of total arms exports. US arms exports increased by 25% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. In 2013/17 US arms exports were 58% higher than those of Russia—the second largest arms exporter in that period. The US supplied major arms to 98 states in 2013/17. Exports to states in the Middle East accounted for 49% of total US arms exports in that period.
“Based on deals signed during the Obama administration, US arms deliveries in 2013/17 reached their highest level since the late 1990s. These deals and further major contracts signed in 2017 will ensure the US remains the largest arms exporter in coming years,” Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said.
Arms exports by Russia decreased by 7.1%t between 2008 and 12 and 2013/17. France increased arms exports by 27% between the two periods and was the third largest arms exporter in 2013/17. Arms exports by Germany—the fourth largest exporter in 2013/17—fell by 14% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. German arms exports to the Middle East increased by 109%.
Few countries outside North America and Europe are large exporters of arms. China was the fifth largest arms exporter in 2013/17. Its arms exports rose by 38% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. Pakistan was the main recipient of China arms exports in 2013/17, there were large increases in Chinese arms exports to Algeria and Bangladesh in the same period. Israel (55%), South Korea (65%) and Turkey (145%) substantially increased arms exports between 2008/12 and 2013/17.
Middle East: arms imports double over the past 10 years
Most states in the Middle East were directly involved in violent conflict in 2013/17. Arms imports by states in the region increased by 103% between 2008/12 and 2013/17 and accounted for 32% of global arms imports in 2013/17.
“Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights led to political debate in Western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales. Yet the US and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98% of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia,” Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said.
In the 201/317 period Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer, with arms imports increasing by 225% compared with 2008/12. Arms imports by Egypt — the third largest importer in 2013/17 — grew by 215% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. The United Arab Emirates was the fourth largest importer in 2013/17, while Qatar, the 20th largest arms importer, increased its arms imports and signed several major deals in that period.
South Asia: Regional tensions drive India’s growing arms imports
India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013/17 and accounted for 12% of the global total. Its imports increased by 24% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. Russia accounted for 62% of India’s arms imports in 2013/17. Arms imports from the US rose by 557% between 2008/12 and 2013/17, making it India’s second largest arms supplier. Despite continuing tensions with India and ongoing internal conflicts, Pakistan’s arms imports decreased by 36% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. Pakistan accounted for 2.8% of global arms imports in 2013/17. Its arms imports from the US dropped by 76% in 2013–17 compared with the previous five year reporting period.
“Tensions between India, on one side, and Pakistan and China, on the other, are fuelling India’s growing demand for major weapons, which it remains unable to produce itself. China, by contrast, is becoming increasingly capable of producing its own weapons and continues to strengthen relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar through arms supplies,” Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said.
China’s arms imports fell by 19% between 2008/12 and 2013/17. Despite this decrease, it was the world’s fifth largest arms importer in 2013/17.