The Western Armament Community (II)

Western powers account for two thirds of the world's arms exports - supplying Iran's Arab rivals and China's potential adversaries.

BERLIN (Own report) - Germany, the EU and the western powers altogether have increased their already dominant share of the booming global arms export, according to a report on international arms transfers published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yesterday. Germany is the fourth largest arms export nation. With a 26 percent share, the EU is well ahead of Russia (21 percent) and behind the USA (36 percent). Two thirds of the world's exports of heavy war machinery are attributed to arms manufacturers in North America and Europe (excluding Russia). SIPRI's list of recipient states is a clear indication of current and future hot spots. Six of the top ten global arms importers are located in the Arab world, particularly at the Persian Gulf. One sixth of all arms exports are being delivered to western allies in the power struggle with China in East and Southeast Asia and in the Pacific realm - with German arms exports being an integral part.

Number Four Globally

In the 2015 to 2019 period, Germany increased its share of the global arms exports to 5.8 percent - up 17 percent from the previous 2010 to 2014 period, thus, according to SIPRI, becoming fourth in the global ranking of all arms exporters. SIPRI presents data for five-year periods, as the volume of deliveries can fluctuate significantly year-on-year, partially due to individual orders far above the average - for example large combat vessels. SIPRI statistical data, which only relates to deliveries of major arms, is using a unique indicator intended to reflect their military capability rather than their financial value. Thus, German and Chinese exports, for example, can be compared despite their different national price levels.[1]

Main Arms Buildup Beneficiaries

Arms exports reached their highest level since the end of the cold war in the period between 2015 and 2019. According to SIPRI, they rose 5.5 percent over the 2010 - 2014 period, and were even 20 percent higher than the period from 2005 to 2009. The USA was, by far, the largest merchant of heavy weaponry. It increased its sales from 31 percent (2010 - 2014) to 36 percent (2015 to 2019). The EU member countries - still including Great Britain - were able to increase their arms exports by 9 percent to 26 percent of the global arms exports,[2] placing them ahead of Russia, whose share of global arms exports fell from 27 to 21 percent. The EU now ranks second behind the USA, meaning that the countries in North America and Europe (with the exclusion of Russia) account for 66 percent of the world's arms sales. They are the main beneficiaries of the global arms buildup.

Iran's Arab Rivals

The Middle East and North Africa are the largest procurers of heavy weapons. According to SIPRI, six of the top ten importers of combat hardware are in this region. Saudi Arabia has increased its arms purchases by 130 percent, and, with a 12 percent share, is the world's top customer for heavy weaponry. The United Arab Emirates, a major customer of German weaponry,[3] also involved in the war on Yemen, is among the world's top ten. The Emirates, like Saudi Arabia and the Emirate Qatar (ranking tenth on SIPRI's list) also major customers of German combat hardware, are being mainly supplied by western companies for its arms buildup - above all against Iran.

China's Potential Adversaries

Alongside the Persian Gulf crisis region, western countries are mainly supporting China's potential and current rivals in their arms buildup. Australia, which recently imported 4.9 percent of the world's heavy weapons, is the fourth largest weapons importer. Since some time, that country has been standing out as a hardliner in the West's power struggle against China. Between 2015 and 2019, Australia was buying its weapons mainly from the USA, Spain, and France. However, it has now become one of the German arms manufacturers' top customers. ( reported.[4]) SIPRI ranks South Korea as 7th among the world's weapons buyers (3.4 percent of the world's heavy weapons customers). It hosts the largest overseas base of the US armed forces and between 2015 and 2019 purchased nearly one third of its weaponry from Germany. China's potential adversaries in East and Southeast Asia and in the Pacific realm account for one-sixth of the world's arms purchases, primarily from western countries. Some of these countries - for example, besides South Korea also Singapore - are traditional customers of German weaponry.

83 Percent from the West

The current SIPRI report has once again confirmed the dominant position held by western arms manufacturers on the world's market for war material. A SIPRI report in December noted that, of the world's 100 largest arms manufacturers, 70 are headquartered in either the United States or Europe (excluding Russia and Turkey). They produce around 83 percent of the weaponry manufactured by the top 100 arms producers. In 2018 alone, their plants churned out US $348 billion worth of armaments - more than the total GDP of Denmark. In 2018, Europe's 27 arms manufacturers among the global top 100, had produced around US $102 billion worth of weaponry.[5]


[1] Paul Holtom, Mark Bromley, Verena Simmel: Measuring International Arms Transfers. SIPRI Fact Sheet. December 2012.

[2] Vgl. hier und im Folgenden: Pieter D. Wezeman, Aude Fleurant, Alexandra Kuimova, Diego Lopes da Silva, Nan Tian, Siemon T. Wezeman: Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. SIPRI Fact Sheet. March 2020.

[3] See also Ein Menetekel für die EU.

[4] See also Der "Super-Zyklus" der Rüstungsindustrie.

[5] The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Services Companies, 2018. SIPRI Fact Sheet. December 2019. See also The Western Armament Community.