The Russian resurgence in the international arms trade challenges recent U.S. supremacy in this arena. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), from 2004-2008, the United States was responsible for 30 percent of the global weapons trade, with Russia in second place with 24 percent. From 2009-2013, however, the gap between the two countries narrowed significantly, with the United States still in first place at 29 percent, but Russia close behind at 27 percent. With the release of new SIPRI arms trade data in mid-March 2015, the two top suppliers may well switch places.
The United States has signed the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), but the prospects for ratification in the near future are dismal at best. Russia has not signed the treaty, and it abstained on the General Assembly vote on ATT passage. Advocates of global control of arms transfers must develop strategies for addressing key suppliers that are not full participants in the treaty. One possibility is seeking synergies among the ATT, the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the UN Register of Conventional Arms to strengthen the nascent global regime on conventional weapons transfers.
Dr. Natalie Goldring is a Senior Fellow in in the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is also UN consultant for the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy.