Germany now world's third-largest arms dealer


THE VALUE of Germany’s weapons exports has doubled in the last five years, according to a new study, making it the world’s third-largest arms dealer after the US and Russia.

Despite the worldwide economic slump, the arms industry is experiencing a boom, said the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), with a 22 per cent increase in sales in 2005-2009 compared to the previous five-year period reviewed.

Huge demand for German-built submarines and tanks has seen Germany capture 11 per cent of the global arms market, according to the report.

Given Germany’s disastrous military past and its unpopular military present in Afghanistan, the findings have prompted a critical reaction in Berlin.

“These figures show that we need much stronger arms controls and tighter criteria for weapons exports,” said Green Party co-leader Claudia Roth. Most of Germany’s exports were to Nato countries such as Turkey, Greece and South Africa. “But when Germany sells arms to India and Iran,” she said, “one has to ask the government what this has to do with responsible foreign policy.”

Sipri said there was a need for greater levels of transparency in arms deals, with most countries declining to reveal the total value of their arms exports.

Researchers found the greatest increase in arms sales were to South American and southeast Asian countries and have warned of arms races in these regions.

“Resource-rich states have purchased a considerable quantity of expensive combat aircraft,” said Dr Paul Holtom, director of Sipri’s 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.”

Of particular note were jumps in arms imports by Indonesia (84 per cent), Singapore (146 per cent) and Malaysia (722 per cent) compared to the previous period of study.

The report’s authors suggested that these countries were involved in a regional arms race to replace their old weapons in light of growing Chinese military might.

A decade ago, Beijing’s defence budget was $10 billion but that figure has grown today to $80 billion (€58 billion), 9 per cent of the world total, making it the world’s largest importer, followed by India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Researchers said that Vietnam’s 2009 order of long-range combat aircraft and submarines “risks destabilising the region, jeopardising decades of peace”.

In all, China remains a relatively small exporter of arms, about $380 million annually, compared to more than $7 billion for the US, or 30 per cent of the global market.Russia is next with 23 per cent. Germany has 11 per cent of the market, France has 8 per cent of the market, while Britain has 4 per cent.

Despite its economic problems, Greece remains the largest importer of major conventional weapons in Europe.

In all, EU member states bought 17 per cent of global arms imports, with internal EU trade accounting for 60 per cent of the total.