Weapons trade records increased profit amid economic downturn in 2020
By Vatican News staff writer
In spite of lockdown measures, erratic supply chains, and general economic downturns due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, one sector – the arms industry – appears not to have been too heavily affected.
According to new data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), sales of weapons and military services by the arms industry’s 100 largest companies totaled $531 billion in 2020 – an increase of 1.3 percent compared with the previous years.
The Swedish Institute notes that 2020 marked the sixth consecutive year of growth in arms sales by the industry's 100 largest companies, as sales were 17 percent higher than in 2015 when SIPRI first included data on Chinese firms.
US companies dominate arms trade
In the report released on Monday, SIPRI said that the US hosts the highest number of companies featured among the top 100 in arms sales. Together, the arms sales of the 41 US companies amounted to $285 billion – a 1.9 percent increase compared with 2019. These companies also account for 54 percent of the top 100’s sales. Since 2018, the top 5 companies in the ranking have been US-based.
Behind the US in arms sales are the top Chinese firms whose combined sales amounted to an estimated $66.8 billion in 2020 – 1.5 percent more than in 2019. Chinese firms accounted for 13 percent of the total top 100 companies' sales in 2020. SIPRI said that in recent years, Chinese arms companies have benefited from the country’s military-civilian fusion and have some of the most advanced military technology producers in the world.
Arms trade in Europe
The SIPRI further report notes that the 26 European arms companies featured among the top 100 accounted for 21 percent of total arms sales, or $109 billion. Sales by the only European firm in the top 10, BAE Systems, increased by 6.6 percent to $24 billion.
Seven British companies recorded arms sales of $37.5 billion, up by 6.2 percent when compared with 2019.
Meanwhile, aggregated sales by French companies in the top 100 fell by 7.7 percent, SIPRI said, amid a sharp year-on-year decline in the number of deliveries by Rafale combat aircraft by Dassault. French arms manufacturer Thales also ascribed its 5.8 percent drop in sales to lockdown-induced disruptions in the spring of 2020.
Four German firms listed in the ranking reached $8.9 billion in sales in 2020, an increase of 1.3 percent compared with 2019. Together, they accounted for 1.7 percent of the top 100’s total sales.
Sales decline in Russia
Russian arms sales have dropped for the third year in a row, SIPRI highlighted. The combined sales of the 9 Russian companies in the top 100 decreased from $28.2 billion in 2019 to $26.4 billion in 2020, with Russian firms accounting for 5 percent of the top 100 arms sales’ total. This decline in sales coincides with the end of the State Armament Programme (2011–20) and pandemic-related delays in delivery schedules.
Other countries that feature among the top 100 rankings include Israel, India, Japan, and South Korea. The three Israeli companies recorded $10.4 billion (2 percent of the total), 5 Japanese companies reached $9.9 billion (1.9 percent), 4 South Korean companies made $6.5 billion (4.6 percent) and the 3 Indian companies grew by $1.7 percent.
Pope’s appeals for disarmament
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a concrete commitment to integral disarmament.
In his message to the fourth Paris Peace Forum in November, the Holy Father urged the ruling classes and governments not to justify rearmament by referring to “an abused idea of deterrence based on a balance of armaments” which has proved fallacious and led to “major humanitarian tragedies.”
Similarly, in his message on 25 September 2020 for the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco, Pope Francis stressed the “need to break with the present climate of distrust” marked by the erosion of multilateralism and the development of new forms of military technology which irreversibly alter the nature of warfare. He also called for dismantling the perverse logic that links security to the possession of weaponry while generating profit for the arms industry.
Likewise, the Holy See, in several statements to international organizations, has reiterated the Pope’s calls for disarmament, or the limitation of armaments under effective systems of control and verification in the face of the principal threats to peace and security in the world today.