A new arms race?

The global arms trade has reached the highest level since the end of the Cold War, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This is a reflection of both current conflicts and rising tensions between nations.

Between 2012 and 2016, the United States was responsible for one-third of total global arms exports. The next top four exporters are Russia (23 percent), China (6.2 percent), France (6 percent) and Germany (5.6 per cent). Together, these countries account for nearly three-quarters of total arms exports.

Almost half of US exports ended up in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest importer, with an increase of 212 percent, and Qatar increased imports by 245 per cent.

Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region portend a regional arms race. India now imports more arms than any other country in the world, Vietnam moved from 29th largest importer in 2007-11 to 10th largest in 2012-16. According to a report by IHS Jane’s, a US defence and intelligence company, China’s military spending will rise to $233 billion in 2020, up from $123 billion in 2010.

Donald Trump’s proposal to add US$54 billion to the Pentagon’s budget, a 10 percent increase, and his aggressive rhetoric against China will likely fuel the regional arms race.

Australia’s military spending will also increase significantly over the next decade: the 2016 defence white paper estimated a rise from A$32 billion to $59 billion per year.