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SIPRI launch new data on international arms transfers

Today the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) launched its latest data on international arms transfers. The data shows that the volume of international transfers of arms increased by 14% between 2009–2013 over the previous five year period (2004–2008).

Key findings include:[1]

  • The five biggest exporters were the United States (29 per cent of global arms exports), Russia (27 per cent), Germany (7 per cent), China (6 per cent), and France (5 per cent). These five countries were responsible for 74 per cent of the total global arms export. China's exports of major arms tripled between 2004–2008 and 2009–13.
  • The five biggest importers of arms were India, China, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia. India’s arms imports are almost three times as high as those of China and Pakistan. South Asia and the Gulf lead in a rising trend in arms imports. Furthermore Saudi Arabia became the fifth largest importer in 2009–13, compared to 18th in 2004–08.
  • European arms imports decreased by 25 per cent between 2004–08 and 2009–13 and many European countries, due to the financial crises, decided to buy second-hand weapons instead of more expensive newly produces weapons.
  • Arms imports to Arab states of the Gulf increased by 23 per cent from 2004–08 to 2009–2013. Several Gulf States started to invest heavily in advanced, long-range strike systems and air and missile defence systems. This includes large orders from the United Kingdom and the USA. In addition in 2013, for the first time, the USA allowed the sale of long-range air launched cruise missiles to Gulf states.
  • Russia continued delivering and marketing its weapons and military supply to Egypt in 2013. The US, suspended scheduled combat aircrafts delivery to Egypt but provided a corvette in late 2013. Furthermore, Germany continued the manufacturing of Egyptian ordered submarines.
  • Russia continued to be the primary weapon supplier to Syria in 2013, although few major weapons were provided and planed combat aircraft system was postponed.
  • Russia continued also to supply Iraq with combat helicopters and is planning to deliver additional Russian produces weapons. Also South Korea and the US plan to deliver combatant aircrafts to Iraq.
  • Sudan and Uganda, both involved in a number of conflicts, accounted for 17 and 16 per cent respectively of arms imports in sub-Saharan Africa. Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine delivered military supplies to Sudan, some of which was used in the conflicts Sudan-South Sudan and in Darfur. Uganda also imported combatant aircraft and tanks from Russia and Ukraine, which it used in their intervention in the civil war in South Sudan.

Today the world spends more resources on arms then during the cold war. We witnessed clear signs of governments’ priorities after the financial crisis in 2008, when states were fast to cut social costs but took considerably longer to cut military expenditure.

There are many direct and indirect links between military expenditure, the arms trade, violent conflict, and the reduction of available resources for social and economic development. Governments that spend excessive financial, technological, and human resources on their militaries divert resources from economic, social, and environmental programmes. The military-industrial complex, composed of a state’s armed forces, the government, suppliers of weapons systems and services (corporations), and academic institutions that conduct research on weapon systems and designs, absorbs vast amounts of funding that could otherwise be spent on human security. We can also see a continuation of arms exports and transfers to countries in conflict and that commit human rights violations. Furthermore, funds reserved for development initiatives are increasingly spent on emergency relief and rehabilitation operations to clean up after violent conflict.

Last year, UN member states adopted the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), in order to control global arms transfers. While the adopted ATT text is stronger than earlier drafts, it still contains substantial limitations and loopholes. Based on the new data released by SIPRI, it is clear that countries have yet not taken any steps towards a more “responsible” arms trade. This makes it clear that robust interpretation and implementation of the ATT will be essential to avoid that it will be used to legitimize the international arms trade.


[1] Summary of SIPRIs new released data, Available at: http://books.sipri.org/product_info?c_product_id=475