2009: The Year of Swedish Arms Exports

Swedish weapon exports jumped 7 percent in 2009 compared to the year before to a total 13.6 billion kronor (1.9 billion USD). According to the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls (ISP), this is the largest export figure since the group began monitoring the weapons industry in 1996.

European Union countries and the United States and South Africa are the biggest consumers of Swedish weapons, accounting for about 80 percent of the exports.

Sweden has developed an apparatus to monitor these arms exports, all of which have to be approved by ISP before being shipped. Countries currently involved in war or known to commit human rights violations are not supposed to receive Swedish-made weapons, unless there are clear reasons involving defense or national security that convince ISP otherwise.

Besides the United States, which is currently at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons went to such countries as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand.

When asked by news agency TT why ISP allows exports to the politically unstable nuclear country of Pakistan, general director Andreas Ekman replied that it decided not to approve any further exports to the country in 2007.

But, he said, they “would continue to honor previous contracts” until they run out.

Ekman added that Sweden has not stopped exporting arms to the United States because it is politically dependent on the North American superpower.

“If we had stopped exporting to the US then we would have also had to stop exporting to Great Britain, Poland, Denmark, and so forth,” other countries involved in the war in Afghanistan.

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society maintain however that the arms exports to such countries as the US and Pakistan “directly conflict with Swedish public opinion.”

In a poll done by Demoskop in November, 81 percent of Swedish respondents replied that weapons should not be exported to countries at war, while 92 percent held that they should not be shipped to countries that seriously violate human rights.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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