Fourteen percent more arms were exported worldwide in the last five years than the five years that preceded them.
Between 2011 and 2015, India was the only country to import more weapons that Saudi Arabia. Compared with 2006–2010, the oil sheikhdom's arms purchases have almost trebled. Number four in the list of the biggest importers of arms is the United Arab Emirates, with a population of barely five million. More than half the arms imported into Africa are brought in by just two countries: the neighboring states of Morocco and Algeria.
On the side of the arms exporters, the USA and Russia have developed their positions as the most important suppliers of military equipment. The USA alone accounts for one-third of arms exports worldwide: Its exports increased by 27 percent. The USA has been constantly replenishing supplies in the Middle Eastern crisis region in particular. Its most important customer was Saudi Arabia; the UAE was in second place, followed by Turkey.
A quarter of global arms exports come from Russia. Its most important customers were in India, China and Vietnam. China itself almost doubled its arms exports, up 88 percent compared to 2006–2010. It now has an almost 6 percent share of the international arms trade, putting it at number three, ahead of France, and has established itself on the international arms market as an important producer. Wezeman attributes this to the improved quality of Chinese weapons. Chinese military equipment goes primarily to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but China is also trying to gain a toehold as an arms supplier in Africa.
Between 2011 and 2015 the Western European countries France, Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy together controlled one-fifth of the worldwide transfer of weapons. France's exports, however, dropped by almost 10 percent in this period, and German arms exports actually halved.
The reason for this was the economic crisis in many European countries. Some European states simply don't have the money for expensive equipment, Wezeman explained. That in turn increased the pressure on the European arms industry to open up new markets. The SIPRI arms trade expert observed that Germany in particular was aggressively trying to sell its weapons systems in places like the Middle East and Asia.
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