The Intricate Affair Of Transferring Arms
The movement of weapons and sensitive arms cargo is a complicated business. Each country has its own regulations regarding the importing and exporting of arms, as do the airlines that carry them. Even though there is a global slump in several markets, arms sales are not slowing down and significant countries are adjusting their exporting regulations to better position themselves on the regional and global stage. Last month, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that within the last five-year period, the worldwide arms trade has risen to its highest level since the Cold War mostly driven by a demand from the Middle East and Asia. Africa too has seen growth with Algeria and Egypt imports steadily increasing in the period 2014 to 2016.
Israel’s Defense Export Controls Agency, a branch of the Defense Ministry, is set to reform and ease regulations on the exporting of arms and defence equipment by exempting exporters from requiring marketing licenses for exports of weapons systems to 98 listed countries, permitting the export of a product for demonstration purposes or display at a defence exhibition without obtaining an export license, exemption from a marketing license for a product categorized as non-classified to be marketed through an intermediary party from one of 98 license-exempt countries, and expanding the agency’s online exporter services to shorten waiting times. However, stiffer penalties will be applied to those who violate the new regulations such as sanctions, fines, and restrictions on companies and executives violating the Defence Export Control Law.
To offset an increasingly unsecure environment and to safeguard its security, Japan has shifted to become what it calls a “proactive contributor to peace in international cooperation” and according to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proactive in securing “peace, stability, and prosperity of the international community, while achieving its own security as well as peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.” Decades of a self-imposed ban on arms exports was lifted in 2014 when Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, established the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology to allow Japan’s producers to export arms and defence equipment following a meticulous screening process, restricting arms exports to nations that are under UN embargoes or currently involved in military conflict, and transparency to avoid arms falling into the wrong third party hands. The transfer of arms must contribute to the active promotion of peace and international cooperation or Japan’s security. Japan is one to keep an eye on however the road ahead will be long with many lessons learnt along the way.
Brexit will certainly cause implications for European arms export controls, which fall under several EU regulations such as the Dual-Use Regulation and the Intra-community Transfer Directive. Leaving these regulations behind will not affect the U.K. in the sense that it is party to the Arms Trade Treaty, which sets international standards for the regulation of arms exports. However, arms transfers and the regulations that govern them sometimes run into complications. The U.K. is receiving heat for arms sales to Saudi Arabia who is allegedly using those munitions in airstrikes on Yemeni civilian installations.
The exporting of arms should continue to be strictly regulated to ensure the receiver (importer) is a country of good standing. Modern weapons must play a role in limiting collateral damage, not increasing it. Arms embargoes are implemented to coerce states and non-governmental actors to improve their behavior in the interest of peace and security. It is important to note that the interpretation of these embargoes vary, especially regarding EU members. Countries currently under arms embargoes include:
The most popular exports include aircraft, air defence systems, armoured vehicles, and artillery. The tables below are drawn from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) database. SIPRI statistical data on arms transfers relate to actual deliveries of major conventional weapons. SIPRI has developed a unique system to measure the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons using a common unit, the trend-indicator value (TIV).
Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA