Introduction. International security, armaments and disarmament in 2009
As the analyses in SIPRI Yearbook 2010 suggest, 2009 began hopefully for many with the advent of a new administration in the United States. In addition, some positive momentum was generated around the goals of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, resulting in important declarations and concrete actions in support of those goals. However, 2009 also showed just how difficult it is to make continued progress in meeting the many challenges that the world faces today.
The financial crisis and economic recession that affected most of the globe appeared to have little effect on levels of military expenditure, arms production or arms transfers. However, the crisis probably did undermine the willingness and ability of major governments and multilateral institutions to invest other, non-military resources to address the challenges and instabilities that threaten societies and individuals around the world.
The contributions to SIPRI Yearbook 2010 describe a world at a critical turning point. On questions of international security, the world faces continuing changes in the nature of armed conflict and instability towards greater diffusion of the means and actors involved in violence. Civilian contributions to peace operations are needed, but the international community continues to struggle with how to provide them. Meanwhile, the Euro-Atlantic security partnership also struggles to define new roles and relationships consistent with the threat environment for the coming decades. Many of these challenges are amply demonstrated in the ongoing difficulties in stabilizing Afghanistan.
Continued upward growth in military spending, arms production and arms transfers will depend on how the global financial situation changes, as well as on developments in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The year 2010 will be important for disarmament and non-proliferation as well, with the world watching for progress in bilateral disarmament between Russia and the USA. The world will also look for progress on disarmament and tightened controls against would-be proliferators in the context of a successful Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva will need to begin substantive negotiations as called for in the draft programme of work adopted in 2009, such as on a fissile material cut-off treaty. New proliferation challenges in the area of dual-use technologies also require the international community to develop more effective mechanisms to prevent their misuse.
Dr Bates Gill (United States) is Director of SIPRI.