Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arms: Salesmen of death reveling in lust of buyers keen to possess the deadliest tools available

By Jaya Ramachandran
Republished kind permission of
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN (IDN) – 'Peace dividend' – a buzzword in early 1990s – has long been consigned to oblivion, presumably because there were no peace dealers willing to convince both democratic and autocratic regimes around the world of the economic benefit of a decrease in 'defence spending' and an increase in social and development expenditures.

Data collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicate that ambitions associated with the end of the Cold War have meanwhile evaporated. Wheeling and dealing in weapons of death and destruction, always a lucrative business, is again casting its devilish spell all around. Salesmen of death are reveling in the lust of buyers keen to equip themselves with the deadliest tools available.

USA, Russia, Germany, France and the UK were the five biggest arms dealers in the years 2005-2009. The United States provided 30 percent and Russia 23 per cent of all weapons exports.

The third largest arms exporter turned out to be Germany: its share of the global market rose from 6 per cent to 11 per cent. But the volume of Germany’s arms exports increased by over 100 per cent between 2000-2004 and 2005-2009.

The five biggest buyers were China, India, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Greece. However, the volume of arms sold to the two largest importers – China and India – decreased by 20 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, in 2005-2009 in comparison with 2000-2004.

"SIPRI data show that resource-rich states have purchased a considerable quantity of expensive combat aircraft," says Paul Holtom, Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.

"Neighbouring rivals have reacted to these acquisitions with orders of their own. One can question whether this is an appropriate allocation of resources in regions with high levels of poverty," states Holtom.

He also expresses concern about brewing ‘arms races’ in a number of regions of tension around the world as reflected in new data on international arms transfers published March 15, 2010 by SIPRI.


According to the data, combat aircraft accounted for 27 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers during 2005-2009. “Orders and deliveries of these potentially destabilizing weapon systems have led to arms race concerns in the Middle East, North Africa, South America, South Asia and South East Asia, fall regions of tension,” warns SIPRI.

Acquisitions of long-range combat aircraft and warships by these states have influenced the procurement plans of neighbouring states. SIPRI Asia expert Siemon Wezeman notes that “in 2009, Viet Nam became the latest South East Asian state to order long-range combat aircraft and submarines.”

The current wave of South East Asian acquisitions could destabilize the region, jeopardizing decades of peace, cautions Wezeman.

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database contains information on all international transfers of major conventional weapons from 1950 to the end of 2009. The significance of this database lies in the fact that it is the only publicly available resource providing consistent data on international arms transfers for this length of time.

The trends revealed by the new data show a 22 per cent hike in the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons in 2005-2009 over 2000-2004. Combat aircraft accounted for 27 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers.

Combat aircraft and associated weapons and components comprised 48 per cent of the volume of U.S. deliveries of major conventional weapons during this period. Deliveries included 72 F-16E combat aircraft to the United Arab Emirates, 52 F-16I combat aircraft to Israel and 40 F-15K combat aircraft to South Korea.

The USA delivered weapons to 70 countries and to NATO in the period 2005-2009, more than any other supplier. Asia and Oceania accounted for most U.S. deliveries (39 per cent), followed by the Middle East (36 per cent) and Europe (18 per cent).

Combat aircraft also constituted a large chunk of Russian arms exports. Forty per cent of the volume of Russian weapons supplies in the years 2005-2009 was combat aircraft, including 82 Su-30MKI to India, 28 Su-30MKA to Algeria and 18 Su-30MKM to Malaysia. "Russia has high hopes of securing an Indian order for 126 combat aircraft ahead of European and U.S. supplier," says SIPRI.

The SIPRI points out that Asia and Oceania absorbed 69 per cent of Russian arms exports for 2005-2009. Africa had the second largest share of Russian exports: 14 per cent for 2005-2009, up from 10 per cent for 2000–2004.

In view of the fact that Germany is known to specialize in armoured vehicles, these constituted 27 per cent of German arms supplies in the years 2005-2009. Over 1700 armoured vehicles were supplied to 21 destinations, of which over 1100 were second-hand.

"While European recipients represent the main destinations, German armoured vehicles have also been delivered to states in Asia and Oceania and the Americas," SIPRI says.

France, the fourth largest arms supplier increased its exports by almost 30 per cent in 2005-2009 in comparison with the previous five years. "French exports have been boosted by deliveries of 25 Mirage-2000 combat aircraft to Greece and 34 to the UAE, as well as ongoing deliveries of La Fayette frigates to Singapore,” according to SIPRI.

In September 2009 France reached final agreement with Brazil to supply 50 EC-725 helicopters, 4 conventionally powered submarines and some of the technology required for a nuclear powered submarine. “France is also confident of winning Brazil’s longstanding competition for 36 combat aircraft," reports SIPRI.

An exception to the burgeoning weapons supplies was the UK. It saw a drop of around 13 per cent between 2000-2004 and 2005-2009. However, the 24th and final British-built Hawk trainer aircraft for India was delivered in 2009, along with the first 5 of 42 built under licence in India. In 2009 the UK began delivery of 72 Typhoon combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

SIPRI points out that although the list of five states that buy most major conventional weapons has changed much since 1950 – more than that of the five largest suppliers – in recent years the composition of the list has remained relatively stable.


In a regional breakdown, SIPRI points out that African states accounted for 7 per cent of international imports of major conventional weapons over the period 2005–2009, compared with 6 per cent for 2000–2004. During 2005–2009, Algeria and South Africa were the two largest arms importers in Africa, accounting for 43 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively, of the region’s imports.

The third largest recipient of major conventional weapons was Sudan, which constituted 5 per cent of Africa’s imports. In several cases relatively small volumes of arms supplies to sub-Saharan African countries have had a major impact on regional conflict dynamics.

Deliveries to Algeria in 2009 included the last of the 28 Su-30MK combat aircraft ordered from Russia in 2006. Two Type-636E/Kilo submarines and 4 S-300PMU-2/SA-20B and 38 96K9 Pantsyr-S1 air defence systems are also on order from Russia.

Algeria’s neighbours Libya and Morocco received much smaller volumes of arms during this period. However, Morocco is slated for major arms imports having ordered 24 F-16C combat aircraft from the USA, 1FREMM frigate from France and 3 smaller SIGMA frigates from the Netherlands in 2008. Libya continues to discuss the procurement of combat aircraft, tanks
and small warships with several potential suppliers.

“Worryingly, arms continue to flow to unstable parts of Africa. During 2005-2009, Sudan received armoured vehicles and military aircraft from Russia, China and Belarus. Ukraine continued deliveries of Su-25 combat aircraft to Chad in 2009 and completed the delivery of 110 T-72M tanks to Kenya, although rumours continue to circulate alleging that the Government of Southern Sudan remains the intended end-user. Kenya is also in the process of receiving 15 F-5E combat aircraft from Jordan and 4 Z-9WA combat helicopters from China,” notes SIPRI.

The Swedish institute points out that international concerns relating to the flow of major conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons (SALW) to areas of conflict in Africa are reflected by the fact that 7 of the 12 United Nations arms embargoes in force during 2009 had African targets.

The SIPRI recalls that in December 2009 a UN arms embargo was imposed on Eritrea. “However, the enforcement of these embargoes remains problematic. In 2009 the UN arms embargoes on entities in Côte d’Ivoire, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia were seriously violated.” (IDN-InDepthNews/16.03.2010)

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