15 Mar 2010: New SIPRI data on international arms transfers reflect arms race concerns
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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 following regions of tension: the Middle East, North Africa, South America, South Asia and South East Asia.
‘SIPRI data show that resource-rich states have purchased a considerable quantity of expensive combat aircraft’, states Dr 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.’
Transfers to South America were 150 per cent higher during the last five years compared to the beginning of the millennium, following a significant upswing in both military spending and orders for arms in recent years.
Mark Bromley, SIPRI Researcher and Latin America expert, says that ‘we see evidence of competitive behaviour in arms acquisitions in South America. This clearly shows we need improved transparency and confidence-building measures to reduce tension in the region.’
South East Asia
Transfers to South East Asia have increased dramatically between the periods 2000–2004 and 2005–2009. Indonesian, Singaporean and Malaysian arms imports have increased by 84 per cent, 146 per cent and 722 per cent respectively. Singapore is the first ASEAN member to be included in the SIPRI Top 10 arms importers since the end of the Vietnam War.
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.’
Other notable developments
- The average volume of worldwide arms transfers for 2005–2009 was 22 per cent higher than the period 2000–2004.
- The major recipient region for the period 2005–2009 remained Asia and Oceania (41 per cent), followed by Europe (24 per cent), the Middle East (17 per cent), the Americas (11 per cent) and Africa (7 per cent).
- Greece remains among the top five largest recipient of major conventional weapons for 2005-2009, but has fallen from third place for 2000–2004. The transfer of 26 F-16C from the United States and 25 Mirage-2000-9 combat aircraft from France accounted for 38 per cent of the volume of Greek imports.
- Like Singapore, Algeria is ranked in the SIPRI Top 10 arms importers for the first time due to significant increases in the volume of arms imported in 2005–2009.
- The USA remains the world’s largest exporter of military equipment, accounting for 30 per cent of global arms exports for the period 2005–2009. During this period, 39 per cent of US deliveries went to Asia and Oceania and 36 per cent to the Middle East.
- Deliveries of combat aircraft during 2005–2009 accounted for 39 per cent of the volume of US deliveries of major conventional weapons and 40 per cent of Russian deliveries.
The SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme
The SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme monitors, measures and analyses international transfers of major conventional weapons. The SIPRI arms transfers database is the most comprehensive publicly available source of information on international transfers of major conventional weapons that have taken place since 1950. It is a fully searchable online database and can be accessed at <http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers>.