Defense: “The world is no safer place than it was in the early 1990s” – Global arms exports are falling
Stockholm Fewer armaments such as combat aircraft, tanks and submarines have been exported worldwide in the past five years than before. The volume of international arms shipments fell by 4.6 percent in 2017-2021 compared to the previous five-year period, according to a report by the Stockholm-based peace research institute Sipri released on Monday.
Compared to the years 2007 to 2011, however, the new values mean an increase of 3.9 percent. Germany is still one of the five largest arms exporters.
Despite the slight decline in a five-year comparison, global arms deliveries have been at a much higher level than before over the past ten years, said Sipri expert Siemon Wezeman of the German Press Agency.
“The world is no safer place than it was at the beginning of the 1990s or at the end of the Cold War.” And this applies to the period before the Russian invasion of Ukraine two and a half weeks ago, emphasized Wezeman.
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According to the Sipri expert, there were no major corona-related effects on the numbers. Rather, in countries like Finland and Switzerland, decisions have been made to buy a significant number of large arms. “The plans have not changed due to Corona. They are on course.” In view of recent major orders, especially for US fighter jets, the peace researchers are expecting a clear increase in import figures for several European countries over the course of the coming decade.
Large import differences between world regions
According to Sipri, the slight decline in international arms deliveries hides major differences between the world regions. For example, while South America has imported fewer armaments than it has in 50 years, increasing or unchanged high import figures in Europe, East Asia, Oceania and the Middle East are contributing to rearmament.
The import volume of the countries of Europe increased accordingly by 19 percent. This can be attributed, at least in part, to the significant deterioration in relations with Russia.
The lead of the USA as the absolute industry leader among the 60 arms-exporting countries continues to grow. Mainly because of their military aircraft, the United States is responsible for 39 percent of all arms exports. This share is more than double that of Russia in second place.
While the US armaments manufacturers came up with a five-year growth of 14 percent, in the case of France this increase was even 59 percent. In contrast, Russian arms exports fell by 26 percent.
The decline can be explained almost exclusively by the fact that deliveries to the world’s largest arms importer, India, and Vietnam collapsed. More exports to China and Egypt could not compensate for that.
Does the drop in Russian exports have anything to do with the actions of the giant empire in Ukraine? “I think the connection is an indirect one,” Wezeman said. The numbers partly reflected how difficult it was for Russia to find new buyers, while older ones like India and China were looking for new suppliers or producing more themselves.
The United States and European countries also put pressure on countries such as India, Algeria and Egypt to refrain from Russian arms deliveries. Wezeman suspects that this pressure is likely to increase further in the coming years.
Many weapons technologically obsolete
Another aspect is the technological standard of Russian armaments – which can currently also be seen in Ukraine. Many of the weapons are not modern, and some are completely outdated. According to Wezeman, another consequence of the Ukraine war is that the West is looking for more allies – also with the help of the lure of arms deliveries.
The five largest arms exporters in the world are ultimately completed by China and Germany. According to Sipri, the Federal Republic of Germany recorded a decline in export volume by 19 percent compared to the previous five-year period and by 49 percent compared to 2007 to 2011.
Such numbers could shift quickly with a large order, Wezeman classified. German arms supplies such as frigates, submarines and armored vehicles now account for 4.5 percent of global arms exports.
And Ukraine? Despite the conflict with Russia that has been going on for years, the country’s imports were very limited in the years 2017-2021. According to the Sipri report, they accounted for only 0.1 percent of the global total. Arms deliveries to Ukraine generally had more of a political than a military significance. In addition, several major exporting countries had restricted their deliveries by February for fear of contributing to an escalation.
At the same time, Ukraine is 14th in the global ranking of arms-exporting countries. Wezeman expects this to change: on the one hand, Ukraine now needs its own arms. On the other hand, large parts of its defense industry are located in endangered and contested areas, for example in Kharkiv.
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