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Saudi Arabia becomes the leading importer of arms

The Global Defence Trade Report, which is released annually by IHS’s Jane’s Information Group, uses data from the IHS Aerospace, Defence & Security Markets Forecast database, a publicly sourced forecasting tool designed to examine trends in global defense spending from 65 countries.

According to the analysis, total global defense spending in 2014 increased by an unprecedented 13.4 percent, up to $64.4 billion from $56.8 billion in 2013. The increase marks the sixth consecutive year that total global defense spending has increased.

According to Ben Moores, senior defense analyst at IHS Aerospace, Defence & Security, “This record figure has been driven by unparalleled demand from the emerging economies for military aircraft and an escalation of regional tensions in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.”

Saudi Arabia’s arms imports increased a staggering 54 percent from 2013 to 2014 and are expected to increase by an additional 54 percent in 2015. It is forecasted that in 2015 Saudi Arabia will account for one-seventh of all defense spending.

The middle east in general has driven much of the increase in total global defense spending, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE importing more defense technology than all Western European Nations combined. According to the Moores, “The Middle East is the biggest regional market and there are $110 billion in opportunities in the coming decade.”

The increase in defense spending in the middle east has been the result of increased tension in the region due to the the growing threat of ISIS. Many Arab countries have already begun to unite in the fight against ISIS, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Qatar. Three of these countries, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey, were among the top 10 importers of arms in 2014.

Outside of the middle east, there has been increased defense spending in the Asia Pacific region, with the agitation between India and Pakistan, the conflict between China and Taiwan, and South Korea’s concern about its northern neighbors, driving the increased demand for arms. Much of the growth in defense spending in the region has been driven by China, which became the third largest arms importer, up from the fifth largest.

Among arms exporters, the US retained its top spot, supplying one-third of all arms in 2014, and was the main beneficiary of the increase in demand for arms in the middle east where the US had 8.4 billion dollars worth of exports, up from 6 billion in 2013.

Russia retained its spot as the second largest exporter of arms with over 10 billion in arms sales representing a 9 percent increase from 2013. China and India were the two largest recipients of Russian exports with $2.3 and $1.7 billion worth of arms respectively.

Despite the continual growth that Russian arms exports have seen over the past few years, it seems likely that the volume of their exports will decrease in the coming years. This is due to numerous factors including the mounting economic sanctions against Russia and China’s decreasing dependence on Russian technology. In addition to this, many of Russia’s oil rich clients, such as Venezuela and Iran, are expected to suffer from lower oil prices.

The study is limited due to the fact that it did not include munitions and small arms. It also only counted programs with a “primarily military function, removing homeland security and intelligence programs,” but with an estimated $110 billion in opportunities in the Middle East over the next decade and the tensions in East and South Asia at an all time high, it seems certain the the report’s conclusions are correct in predicting that global arms trade will only continue to grow.

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