Stockholm (dpa) – After years of strong growth, global arms exports have leveled off at a virtually unchanged high level.
The volume of arms deliveries of large armaments such as tanks and submarines decreased slightly in the years 2016 to 2020 by 0.5 percent compared to the previous five-year period, but was 12 percent higher than in the previous five years. As on Monday from there, a new report from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute Sipri emerged.
While exports from Russia and China fell, those of the three Western countries rose significantly among the five largest arms exporters: the US remains by far the largest arms seller – but France and Germany also delivered more than before.
Overall, the volume of deliveries has not increased further in a five-year comparison for the first time since the period 2001-2005. It still remained close to its highest level since the end of the Cold War. According to the peace researchers, it is not yet possible to estimate whether the total export of large arms will level off in the long term and in view of the consequences of the Corona crisis.
“It is too early to say whether the era of the rapid growth of arms deliveries of the past two decades is over,” said Sipri armaments expert Pieter Wezeman. Some countries will reconsider their arms imports due to the economic impact of the pandemic. At the same time, even at the height of the 2020 Corona crisis – and the associated high government costs – several states have signed major arms contracts.
Sipri’s reports deal with long-term international trends. Because the volume of arms deliveries can fluctuate strongly from year to year, the independent institute focuses on five-year periods instead of individual years. Even though the researchers did not provide volume figures for the Corona year 2020, they pointed to a sharp decline in global arms shipments in the past year: their value in 2020 was 16 percent lower than in 2019.
This can probably be partly explained by the pandemic, its effects on production and supply schedules and the accompanying economic crisis. But it is also related to other factors, such as supply and demand in the world market. For example, uncertainty as to whether the pandemic was the main cause of the decline underlines that several countries had higher delivery rates than in previous years.
It remains clear that the US has further expanded its position as the world’s largest arms supplier: with deliveries to 96 countries and a five-year growth rate of 15 percent, it now accounts for 37 percent of exports. Between 2011 and 2015 this was 32 percent. Washington supplied nearly half of its armaments to the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia, in particular, is a major purchaser of American armaments.
Saudi Arabia remains the largest importer of armaments. Demand in the war-torn and conflict-torn Middle East was generally growing faster than in any other region of the world. However, the region with the most imports is Asia and Oceania, with India, Australia, China, South Korea and Pakistan as the leader. “For many countries in Asia and Oceania, the growing perception of China as a threat is the main driver of arms imports,” explains Sipri researcher Siemon Wezeman.
On the other hand, the Russian arms factories are facing not only strong American competition, but also a huge decline in exports to India. According to Sipri, the main reason is that India is buying fewer large weapons from Moscow and apparently wants to make itself less dependent on Russian armaments. After a drop of 22 percent, Russia is still responsible for a fifth of arms shipments. This means second place in the world, for France and Germany.
While France increased its exports by 44 percent, Sipri measures the five-year growth in German arms deliveries at 21 percent. The Federal Republic is now responsible for 5.5 percent of arms sold worldwide. The largest buyers of the 55 importing countries of German armaments were South Korea, Algeria and Egypt. Ship and submarine deliveries accounted for nearly half of Germany’s arms exports.
Greens and leftists called on the federal government to reconsider their arms supplies. “The figures from Sipri show that Germany has once again boosted arms exports – against the global opposite trend,” said Katja Keul, spokeswoman for the Greens in the Bundestag, disarmament. The myth of a restrictive arms export policy can no longer be maintained. “We urgently need legal regulations in an arms export control law so that it can finally change,” demanded Keul.
The Left was equally critical. “The Union and the SPD are the best guarantees for mega profits in the German arms industry,” said spokeswoman for the disarmament policy Sevim Dagdelen. Rather than halting arms deliveries to war and conflict zones, the federal government is making Germany the “fourth largest arms dealer in the world”. The left, on the other hand, demands a ban on arms exports.
Sipri expert Pieter Wezeman pointed out that Germany has imposed extensive restrictions on arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. But Egypt now plays an important role in German exports. As before, German exports depend mainly on marine equipment such as frigates and submarines, as well as armored vehicles, he told the German news agency. “In these two sectors, Germany remains one of the most important suppliers in the world.”
Greenpeace criticized Germany for selling weapons to dictatorships, in war and crisis areas and to developing countries. If the Federal Republic is to take international responsibility, it must stop exports to states “in which the military and corrupt politicians promote their armaments fantasies at the expense of the population,” said Greenpeace disarmament expert Alexander Lurz. “In the fight against the corona pandemic, the poorer countries in particular lack the necessary financial resources and they must not be wasted on submarines and tanks from Germany.”