The global arms trade has remained at the same level over the past five years after years of increases, due to falling exports from Russia and China, according to a report released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Total volume fell by 0.5 per cent between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020 for the first time in nearly two decades, despite “remarkable” increases by three of the biggest sellers, led by the United States, which increased its share from 32 per cent to 37 per cent. “It is too early to say whether the period of rapid growth of the last two decades is over. The economic impact of covid-19 may cause some countries to firm up their arms imports in the coming years,” says the report, which hints at the signing of large contracts during 2020.
The United States, which sold arms to 96 states (almost half of them to the Middle East), increased its sales by 15 % and widened the gap with Russia, which suffered a 22 % drop due to a decline in its operations with India, although it maintains its status as the second largest seller with 20 % of the total. The study notes that despite the recent signing of new contracts with several countries, which augurs well for an upcoming rise in exports, Russia faces “strong competition” from the United States in all regions. It is followed by France and Germany, up 44 % and 21 % respectively, ahead of China, with 5.2 % overall and a decline of almost 8 %. The five largest sellers accounted for three quarters of total world arms exports.
Saudi Arabia, the largest importer
With an increase of 61% compared to 2011-2015 and a global share of 11%, Saudi Arabia has established itself as the leader in global arms imports. India, Egypt, Australia and China complete the list of the top five global arms buyers, accounting for 36% of the total. India’s imports fell by 33% over the past five years, partly due to its attempt to reduce its dependence on Russia.
By region, Asia-Oceania was the largest recipient of arms over the past five years, accounting for 42 per cent of the total, followed by the Middle East (33 per cent), Europe (12 per cent), Africa (7.3 per cent) and the Americas (5.4 per cent). “For many countries in Asia and Oceania, a growing perception of China as a threat is the main driver of their arms imports. More large imports are planned and several states in the region are looking to produce their own weapons,” the report writes.