A recent report from The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) revealed information about the global arms trade. The United States is the lead exporter in the arms industry followed by Russia, the two countries represent more than 50% of the global arms industry.
Additionally, the data scientist Will Geary launched a visualization about the U.S. weapons exports from 1950 to 2017, which left the world shocked and left room to the debate of the trade of weapons. It is reported that since the end of the Cold War the global arms transfers speeded up. The weaponry trade is a billionaire business. A possible estimation of the total value in 2016 was at least $88.4 billion. Yet, the reality is likely to be higher.
The ongoing trade war among the great powers: United States, Russia, and China positioned the U.S. under pressure. The US administration released a new policy directed to increase its power in the global arms market, without mentioning that the U.S. was already well-established in that market for almost six decades. Another provided argument supporting this policy is the military consolidation of allies and partners to maintain international peace. The situation seems to turn easier for the arms exports to be sold and reach its destination. The policy lessens and weaks the arms restrictive policies.
Moreover, the exportation of weaponry in the U.S. showed over 20% growth from 2013 to 2017 in comparison to five years before. The country supplies weapons to over 98 countries.
The matter turns even more controversial due to the U.S. main arms importer countries. Those states are located, principally, in the Middle East. Weaponry importations doubled in the past 10 years in the region.
Almost half of all U.S. main weapon exports contribute to conflicts in the Middle East.
There is an obvious link between the transfer of arms to the Middle East with the ongoing region ’s conflicts. Saudi Arabia is the top recipient of those imports since 2010. The latter decade is heavily featured by profound violence and severe conflict in the region. In 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition with other Arab states to go on war against Yemen. Likewise, some western countries like United Kingdom, France and the United States supported the war supplying weapons and intelligence.
Since then Saudi-led forces have perpetrated terrible corollaries on Yemen, the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. According to the United Nations, the conflict has pushed over 22 million people to the brink of starvation and necessity of humanitarian assistance on a daily basis, around 80 per cent of the total population, and more than 10,000 civilian causalities have been registered.
On the other hand, officials from the U.S. have expressed their desire, the ongoing war in Yemen to end. Yet, is the U.S. willing to stop selling weapons to the Arab region?.
In 2017, Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia which in fact was his first trip abroad as president. Once there, he announced $110 billion in immediate sales of U.S. arms and equipment, with $350 billion in additional deals over the next 10 years. A disconnection between the desire to end the conflicts there and to sell more weapons in the region. However, everything seems to indicate that the Middle East, a region plunged in numerous conflicts, will continue to be one of the main importers of weapons in the world. And the United States, its main supplier.
The negative side effects of the sales and transfers of weapons may take primarily in poor world areas. Supplying military equipment means newly developed, advanced weapons systems which could create a new significantly higher combat capability that can be used in a disruptive manner as in the case of Yemen and Syria. It is important to take into consideration the danger of dispersion, the equipment may end up in the power of criminal groups, for example. This risk becomes potentially higher when weapons are sold or transferred to failing, fragile states that are clearly unprepared, unwilling, or too corrupt to protect those imports in an adequate way.
Arms sales can also prolong and intensify ongoing war and conflicts, instead of altering the military balance of a conflict to facilitate a rapid ending. Also, sending armaments encourage the recipients to continue fighting even with no chance of success, leading to more casualties.
A Human Rights Watch researcher from Yemen voiced that the best way to force Saudi Arabia to change their ways is to rest weapons sales and transfers.
Do arms provide protection and security?