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12. International arms transfers



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The downward trend
in major arms transfers as measured by the SIPRI trend-indicator value
appears to have been reversed. In both 2001 and 2003 there were clear
increases in the volumes of major weapons delivered. Russia and the USA
remain the major suppliers. Their main recipients were China and India
(in the case of Russia) and Taiwan, Egypt, the UK, Greece, Turkey and
Japan (in the case of the USA). A continued increase in US arms
transfers will influence the global trend. However, domestic factors
indicate that the level of Russian arms transfers is unlikely to remain
high for very much longer. The future is uncertain for the other major
suppliers because of international competition and remaining
uncertainty about the future potential of European development and
production. The relatively small suppliers of today could achieve
short-term importance, as illustrated by Canada and Uzbekistan.

in Iraq in 2003 do not seem to have had a strong immediate impact on
orders for or deliveries of major weapons. They seem instead to have
supported decisions already made as a result of the war in Afghanistan.
The operation in Iraq may have been carried out at a technical level
beyond what most countries regard as relevant to their own defence
policy or military strategy. That said, there are likely to be orders
for new weapons such as precision-guided ‘beyond visual range’
missiles, ABM defence systems, UAVs and man-portable air defence
systems (MANPADS). Since the war in Afghanistan MANPADS have been high
on the international control agenda, but they may be in demand because
they were among the more effective weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Appendix 12A. The volume of transfers of major conventional weapons: by recipients and suppliers, 1999–2003


Appendix 12B. Register of the trade in and licensed production of major conventional weapons, 2003


Appendix 12C. Sources and methods for arms transfers data


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Appendix 12D. Suppliers of ballistic missile technology


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The proliferation of
ballistic missiles has been viewed by Western countries as a problem
for over 20 years. Several of the major and most problematic suppliers
and recipients, such as China, Iran, North Korea and Syria, are among
the most secretive countries in the world. Most reports of their
activities are based on Israeli, United States or other Western
intelligence sources and are virtually impossible to verify.

Korean export-related income is very limited and arms sales provide an
important part of it. Most North Korean weapons are outdated and
uncompetitive, but the country has found a niche-market for its
ballistic missiles. Giving up such exports, which are not illegal,
would be a large economic sacrifice. Companies and persons from former
Soviet republics are trading their products and knowledge for
commercial reasons, but generally without state involvement or
permission. Other exporters’ reasons may be more political. Chinese
technology exports to Pakistan are more related to supporting an ally,
as are US exports to the United Kingdom.

may be steps in the direction of the development of very accurate
ballistic missiles that could use conventional warheads more
effectively. New navigation systems may dramatically improve accuracy
without adding exceptional additional costs. GPS technology is
widespread and other systems not dependent on signals from foreign
satellites are also possible. However, the main urgency in the debate
about missile proliferation arises from those missiles intended to
deliver warheads armed with biological, chemical or nuclear payloads,
especially nuclear warheads.

has been some success in limiting the number of suppliers of ballistic
missiles and related technology. This is partly linked to the fact that
ballistic missiles—especially when they have ranges of over 1500 km,
when problems of multiple stages and warhead re-entry are
encountered—are fairly complicated systems which often require foreign
help. That many of the key technologies required for ballistic missiles
(e.g., fuel, warhead re-entry vehicles and engines) are quite distinct
has also helped to control proliferation.

some of the uncertainty about ballistic missile programmes, transfers
and links between countries may soon be reduced. The ‘war on terrorism’
has increased controls on financial transactions and on the transfer
and transportation of weapons and related materials. Revelations about
and Western access to the Libyan and Iraqi ballistic missile programmes
will increase understanding of the sources and mechanisms of ballistic
missile proliferation. This may lead to improved controls and
regulations, further limiting proliferation.


Dr Björn Hagelin
(Sweden) is the Leader of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Project. Before
joining SIPRI in 1998, he was a researcher and Associate Professor at
the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, for
10 years. Previously, he was a security analyst at the Swedish National
Defence Research Institute. His publications include books, chapters
and articles about security policy, the military industry, arms
transfers and related topics. His recent publications include ‘Sweden's
defence industry: from independence to uncertainty’ (in Russian), Eksport Vooruzheniy, vol. 37, no. 3 (May/June 2003). He contributed to Armament and Disarmament in the Caucasus and Central Asia, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 3 (July 2003), and to Arms Trade and Economic Development: Theory and Policy in Offsets (Routledge, 2004), edited by J. Brauer and J. P. Dunne.

Mark Bromley
(United Kingdom) is a Research Associate on the SIPRI Arms Transfers
Project. Previously, he worked for the British American Security
Information Council (BASIC) in London.

Siemon T. Wezeman
(Netherlands) is a Researcher on the SIPRI Arms Transfers Project. He
has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 1993. Among his
publications are several relating to international transparency on arms
transfers. His most recent publication is The Future of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 4 (August 2003).