Despite the gloomy world economy, global arms trade hit post-Cold War peak in 2012, a Russian report issued earlier this month revealed.
According to the report, Russia’s Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade said global military equipment exports hit $69.84 billion this year, the highest level since the end of the Cold War.
Driven by complex factors including turmoil in the Middle East and huge appetite of international arms dealers, the alarming situation is likely to have huge ramifications for world peace.
The trade registered a 3.84% increase to the tune of $67.26 billion in 2011, already 20% higher compared to $56.22 billion in 2010.
Increases in 2010 and 2011 were a result of weapons deals that had been delayed due to the financial crisis that started in 2008, the report revealed.
Li Qinggong, deputy secretary of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said the recent surge is due to rising security risks around the world, especially turmoil in Middle East and North Africa, and escalating terrorism threats.
“Many countries, not only the ones in West Asia and North Africa, now feel more threatened. The traditional risks are still there, and new ones keeping emerging,” Li said.
“Major weapon exporting nations are also trying to support the industry to stimulate the economy,” he said.
The Chinese official added that arms trade had also benefited from countries worldwide updating their weapons.
Su Hao, an expert on political and security affairs with China Foreign Affairs University, also blamed escalating tensions in East Asia for the rise in arms trade.
“Rising uncertainties in the region is also a contributing factor,” he said while referring to tensions between North Korea and its neighbours and growing Chinese navel presence in South China Sea to assert control over the disputed Paracel Islands.
Tensions have also increased in recent months following a confrontation between China and the Philippines near China’s Huangyan Island in April. The US and Japan have announced plans to help further equip the Philippine armed forces.
The Russian think tank report said exports will hit $77.5 billion in 2015, after a slight drop in 2013 and 2014. The peak in 2015 is due to “huge contracts” signed between the United States and Saudi Arabia along with other countries in the Near East, it disclosed.
“Turmoil in the Middle East is likely to maintain and even escalate in the near future, so it is not hard to understand Saudi Arabia’s need to better equip itself,” Su said.
“In another view, Western countries also need a strong Saudi Arabia and other regional powers to balance their traditional enemies such as Iran.”
According to the report, Russia is the world’s second-largest weapon supplier in 2012, with an export volume of $13.29 billion – 19% of the world market.
Russia had a good sales result, although it lost markets in Iran and Libya due to sanctions on the two nations and considerably losing the Syrian market. It has also been elbowed out of the Gulf market by US.
The Russian report showed France ranked third, with $5.61 billion in exports, a figure expected to rise to $19 billion by 2015.
France is followed by Germany, which has $4.57 billion in exports, the United Kingdom with$3.24 billion and Iran with $2.8 billion. Italy, China, Spain and Sweden rank successively after Iran.
According to Hu Siyuan, an expert with People’s Liberation Army Defense University, China’s weapon exports are second-class compared with the world’s leading exporters, “especially in the fields of material and sensing technique”.
Li Qinggong said China sells combat fighters to Pakistan and training jets to other countries.
Japan repealed its self-imposed decades-old ban on military equipment exports in December 2011 as it exported arms worth millions of dollars to the Philippines.
Japan is not a big player in the world arms market, but it is now trying to have a finger in the pie to help boost the domestic economy, Li said.
“But Japan may not manage to achieve that goal, as Washington will not allow it to sell weapons based on technology mainly learned from the US,” he added.
US weapons market lynchpin
The report said US leads the global arms market, with its export volume hitting $25.52 billion, or 36.53% of the global figure. Its status will further be consolidated in 2013, accounting for 40% of the world share.
Chen Fei, a scholar majoring in international issues at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law based in Central China’s Hubei province, while speaking to media on Sunday blamed the Obama Administration for fanning tensions in East Asia to drive US arms sales.
“Congressmen, political figures and arms dealers in the country have formed a close mutualinterest community,” he said.
Chen said that the Obama administration is creating a more favourable external environment for arms dealers through its foreign policy including its high-profile strategic decision to counter China in East Asia.
In late July, a UN conference involving 193 member nations aimed at forging a world regulation on weapon deals. Washington blocked the efforts by insisting that all member nations should have veto rights on the document.