The United States retains world leadership in arms deals.

Arms deals were 21% more intensive in 2004-2008 than in the five preceding years. Retaining leadership as world’s largest arms merchant, the United States accounted for 31% of all arms deals over this period. SIPRI experts point out that 37% of all US weapons sold between 2004 and 2008 ended up in the Middle East. Russia upped arms export by 14% and retained its niche in the world arms market without enlarging it any.

The SIPRI reported a noticeable increase of weapons flow into the Middle East. It increased 38% over the last five years. To quote Pieter D. Wezeman of the SIPRI, “… the Middle East is once again a major importer of conventional weapons.”

Supplies of arms to conflict areas (Afghanistan, Georgia, Israel, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) increased in scope. As for Georgia, it bought $224 million worth of merchandise from foreign suppliers in 2007 and 2008 (including $24 million worth of aircraft, $28 million worth of antiaircraft complexes, and $92 million worth of armored fighting vehicles). Ukraine alone sold $186 million worth of weapons and military hardware to Georgia. Israel became the second largest exporter of arms to Georgia ($14 million), followed by Poland, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria.

SIPRI experts emphasized a decline of China’s interest in conventional weapons. To be more exact, official Beijing signed no new major aircraft or warship contracts with Russia in 2007 and 2008. It merely confirmed its strategy of producing on its own territory whatever the People’s Liberation Army needed.

Dr. Paul Holtom, a Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfer Project, attributed the increase of weapons flow to the Middle East to certain political and financial factors. The former concerned the regional situation from the standpoint of the continuing wars and tension around Iran. The United States upped aid to certain countries of the region on the pretext of ensuring their security from Iran.

As for the financial factors, high oil prices benefited some countries handsomely so that they can afford to export merchandise now. The United Arab Emirates is one of these countries. The specialist mentioned that Saudi Arabia was slated to procure a great deal of military hardware from Great Britain in the near future. Iraq meanwhile was on its way to becoming a major importer of merchandise too.

World’s second largest arms exporter, Russia retained its 25% of the global arms market. “The future of its traditional markets abroad in the meantime is certainly unclear,” Holtom said. The People’s Republic of China for example is focused on production of whatever merchandise it needs right on its own territory. Where India is concerned, the Russians encounter there an increasingly more ferocious competition from Western arms merchants. There is no way therefore to predict Russia’s export capacities in the near future with any degree of accuracy.