When it comes to arms exports, few will be surprised that the US tops the list, with 30 percent of global expenditures on arms going to weaponry from America. Second place is likewise hardly a shocker -- 23 percent of the world's weapons originate in Russia.
Third place, though, is raising more eyebrows. According to the 2009 annual report put together by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Germany's weapons exports have more than doubled in the last five years, to 11 percent of the global total. German submarines and tanks, the report makes clear, have gained a number of loyal customers.
Given Berlin's tentative forays into geopolitics in recent years -- against a backdrop of deep domestic skepticism about German involvement in conflicts across the globe -- it is perhaps not surprising that the opposition is up in arms at the SIPRI ranking.
Indeed, the Greens are now demanding greater parliamentary oversight for arms exports. "This report shows that we need more stringent control over and sharper criteria governing arms exports," Green leader Claudia Roth told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. Parliament must finally get the right to monitor the government's weapons exports, she continued, adding that such control was commonplace elsewhere.
Dangerous Arms Race
Most of German arms sales go to NATO member states, with Turkey and Greece counting among the country's best customers along with South Africa. Still, Roth said that there is a "powder keg situation" in some regions in the world and the export of weapons to such areas could result in dangerous arms races.
The Stockholm-based SIPRI also warned about of arms races in volatile regions such as the Middle East, North Africa, South America as well as South and Southeast Asia. Arms transfers to South America have risen by 150 percent over the last five years, in comparison to the years 2000-2004, the report found. In Southeast Asia the wave of weaponry could "destabilize the region, jeopardizing decades of peace," the institute warned.
The researchers found that the worldwide trade of rockets, fighter jets, weapons and munitions was up by 22 percent over the last five years. Expensive fighter jets have proven particularly attractive, with their sale making up 27 percent of total arms sold.
"Resource-rich states have purchased a considerable quantity of expensive combat aircraft. Neighboring rivals have reacted to these acquisitions with orders of their own," said Paul Holtom, head of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme, in a statement.
China and India lead the pack of arms importers, but Singapore and Algeria made the top 10 for the first time. Indeed, Singapore arms imports increased by 146 percent during the period of 2005-2009 against the years 2000-2004. Malaysian arms purchases increased by 722 percent during the same period.
SIPRI regularly comes up with higher estimates of German arms exports than the German government, primarily due to the fact that the institute includes compensation deals in their statistics in addition to the sales of used weaponry and "presents."
The SIPRI report found that warships made up 44 percent of German arms exports with tanks contributing an additional 27 percent.
Jan van Ajen, deputy floor leader of the far-left Left Party, called the increase in German arms exports "horrible" and called for a ban. "There shouldn't be any jobs in this country devoted to the death of other people," he told the Frankfurter Rundschau.
Rainer Arnold, security spokesman for the opposition Social Democrats, told the newspaper, however, that he finds "nothing objectionable" about German companies supplying weapons to NATO allies. Deliveries to other countries, he continued, must be viewed "very critically."