Latin America, a new El Dorado for European arms exports?

Latin American countries are today in an exceptional situation where the defense budgets are being contracted and the missions of the armed forces reoriented towards issues of public security. This Analysis presents the evolution of military spending in these countries as well as arms acquisitions: who are the major importers, who are their main suppliers and what are the current trends? It is also examining the question of transfers of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition from the European Union Member States to this region.

Crédit photo : parachutistes mexicains (Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump/USAF/Wikimedia Commons)


The role of the US in Arms Transfers to Armed Groups in Syria

Since 2012, weapons and ammunition have arrived massively to the many armed groups active in Syria, notably from the Balkans and passing through neighbouring countries which, like Saudi Arabia, claim to be the final recipients. Far from being just a case of unscrupulous exporters and importers ignoring the re-exporting ban, it appears that the United States is at the heart of these transfers.

Through two programs – the first implemented by the CIA for the benefit of opponents to the Damascus government; the second organized by the Pentagon to arm the opponents to Islamic State – the United States have indeed coordinated, facilitated and financed billions of dollars of arms purchases in third countries and supervised their transport to the Syrian rebel groups they wish to support. However, this flood of weapons has produced many unintended effects, including the supply of jihadist groups and fighting between factions armed, some by the CIA, others by the Pentagon.

Crédit photo : missile TOW américain utilisé par des combattants de l'Etat islamique

Balkan arms transfers to the Middle East and risks of diversion to armed groups

Since 2011, small arms and light weapons flows from the Balkans to the Middle East have increased sharply. While Iraq remains logically the largest importer of Balkan weapons in the region, Saudi Arabia has also established itself as a major customer. Others, in particular Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have also greatly expanded their arms purchases. The main exporting country to the Middle East is by far Bulgaria, followed by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The curve of their exports rises dramatically, with record sales in 2015 or 2016.

Yet, some of these weapons were diverted to diverse non-state armed groups operating in Syria, including "subsidiaries" of Al-Qaeda, and even Islamic State. The lax policy of the exporters is not alone to blame. These transfers are actually part of a strategy that goes well beyond the Balkan and the Middle East.

Photo credit: Serbian machine gun M02 Coyote used by a rebel in Syria (2016) - source: ARES (Armament Research Service) via Facebook.

Monitoring of regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa – July to September 2017

This quarterly monitoring, published by GRIP since 2011, aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It examines in particular broad internal security issues, regional tensions, and cross-border and transnational crimes.

Crédit photo : Casque bleu de la MINUSMA près de Gao (source : MINUSMA / Harandane Dicko)

L’armée turque après le putsch: outil éreinté au service de la politique étrangère d’un régime consolidé

L’armée turque a subi la tentative de coup d’État de juillet 2016 et ses suites de plein fouet: secouée par des vagues de purges parmi ses cadres, privée de son indépendance par sa soumission au gouvernement civil, elle doit cependant maintenir des engagements cruciaux à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur du pays tout en s’adaptant à la posture internationale de plus en plus clivante qu’entend tenir le président Erdogan. Ainsi, l’outil militaire d’une politique étrangère de plus en plus vindicative ressort au contraire éreinté du processus de consolidation du pouvoir post-coup. Observant des déficits dans des secteurs essentiels à ses missions actuelles, comme les capacités aériennes et la planification stratégique, l’armée voit également la pérennité de son professionnalisme menacé par une baisse des exigences de recrutement et de formation et leur basculement vers des critères de loyauté politique plutôt que d’excellence militaire.

(Crédit photo: Turkish Soldiers - U.S. Navy photo by MC2 (SW) Christopher Hall)

Monitoring of regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa – April to June 2017

This quarterly monitoring, published by GRIP since 2011, aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It examines in particular broad internal security issues, regional tensions, and cross-border and transnational crimes...

Crédit photo : Projet à impact rapide (QIP) à Gao, financé par la MINUSMA (UN Photo/Harandane Dicko/mai 2017)

Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: from negotiation to the first draft

For the first time since the signature in 1996 of the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty (CTBT), a negotiation opened on a new multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument. The aim is to complete the current treaties which prohibit “inhumane weapons” (biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel land mines, cluster munitions); Nuclear weapons being the last weapons of mass destruction not subjects to a total ban. On May 22th, a first Draft of Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was published and is submitted from now on to the criticisms, in the objective that on June 15th, date of the open of the second round of negotiations, the lacks were corrected and that the works end on July 7th on a final document.

Crédit photo : Première session de la négociation à l'ONU (Jean-Marie Collin)

Tomahawk missiles and “Mother of All Bombs”: Dilapidation and “red line crossing” in the Trump administration

This analysis focuses on recent coercive actions led by the USA in Syria (with the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles) and Afghanistan (with the release of a Massive Ordnance Air Blast Weapon, or MOAB). We highlight the fact that these actions project a new representation of the use of force by the United States, out of step with the image of "economic violence" that had been imposed during the presidency of Barack Obama. Based on George Bataille's philosophical work on waste and transgressions, we show that these actions can be analyzed as a punitive celebration aimed at asserting the status of the United States on the international stage.

Monitoring of regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa – January to March 2017

This quarterly monitoring, published by GRIP since 2011 is part of a project named “Contributing to improve human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in Sub-Saharan countries”. It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It examines in particular broad internal security issues, regional tensions, and cross-border and transnational crimes.

Crédit photo : Patrouille de la Police UNPOL à Tombouctou (MINUSMA/Harandane Dick)

The Sahel and Lake Chad Window of the EU Emergency Trust Fund: migration as a new security and development issue

The Sahel region is high on the European agenda and was given a full-fledged component in the establishment of the "Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa". While its first and main feature is the increasingly flexible mode of operation and governance, this instrument of cooperation also reflects a gradual alignment of European security and development agendas in this region. Specifically, this Analysis aims at identifying the specificities, assets and possible biases of this new tool for managing migration, at providing a quick assessment of its implementation and, finally, at reviewing the contemporary development of the European policy in the Sahel.
Crédit photo : Projet d'irrigation de rizières au Mali (source : UN Photo/Marco Dormino)


The Caliphate in Southeast Asia:Intertwined logics of a shared concern

Experiencing a series of military defeats in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist organization Islamic State may well wish to expand its reach to Southeast Asian shores. There is even concern that it might claim a “caliphate” in this area. Such prospect seems to be fed by the globalization and professionalization of the most radical militant groups present in Southern Philippines, as well as by their better use of transborder networks and socio-political issues. In this light, the region’s jihadist landscape is poised to change, and so should the means to manage it. Is it possible that the days of a so-called Southeast Asian “counter-terrorism model” are already long gone?
Photo: Abu Sayyaf fighters posing with an Islamic State flag


Arms trade and international responsibility of exporting States

Under EU and international law, EU Member States are prohibited from facilitating, contributing to or supporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law abroad, for example by transferring weapons. Yet there are concerns about the legality of some arms exports. Beyond the primary responsibility of the user of weapons, this analysis aims to examine the question of the legal responsibility of European States transferring arms to other States in situations where they could be used to commit serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The Union research defence program: state of affairs

In 2016, for the first time in their history, the European institutions decided to finance some actions in the field of defense research. This is a fundamental change in the Union's approach to European defense and may be a game changer, depending on the modalities that will be used to define the amount and the outline of the future European Defense Research Program (EDRP) as well as its relationship with the national defense planning and the European defense planning that appears to be emerging. Other important issues will also need to be addressed, such as the articulation of the European program with the capability programs and its overall governance. This Analysis, drawn up on the basis of a report to the European Parliament in March 2016, provides an update on the situation in the spring of 2017.

Malaysia’s political crisis: silence and turbulences

Since 2015, Malaysia is mired in a political crisis that was prompted by a world-scale corruption scandal. Facing these turbulences, Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly received no less than US$ 1 billion from a sovereign fund – « 1MDB » – he himself set up and presided. 1MDB is now close to bankruptcy. In place of apology, Najib’s government forged ahead: it silenced its critics by an intensive use of draconian regulations and now plays the racial and religious cards in prevision of a hotly contested general election. Such an evolution will probably spill over national borders, but with what impact?   

Arms manufacturing goods and technologies: exports-at-risks

Arms manufacturing goods and technologies: exports-at-risks Arms manufacturing goods and technologies are widely sought on the international defence market: they can help importing States to reduce dependence on their suppliers while progressively acquiring knowledge and know-how likely to strengthen their own defence industry. But these manufacturing capabilities also pose a challenge to exporting companies as they have been increasingly required to transfer such defence articles as part of expanding offsets requirements, thereby putting their own competitiveness at risk. As to suppliers States, exports of defence manufacturing capabilities must be assessed through the risk of end-use diversion as well as their potential negative impact on national employment rate.

Crédit photo : Usine de munitions de l’entreprise Caracal (crédit:


Controls on transit and transhipment. The example of three European countries

On November 23rd 2016, the Hong Kong harbour authorities seized nine Terrex armoured vehicles from the Singaporean army as their container ship was calling in Hong Kong. The vehicles were coming back from an exercise in Taiwan. There was no valid transit license for the vehicles and their seizure by the Chinese authorities started a diplomatic crisis between Singapore and China. This incident illustrates what is at stake with transit and transhipment controls of military equipment although those controls are often under-researched compared to other arms control measures. In this analysis, we will compare the transit and transhipment controls of three European countries, France, Germany and the Netherlands, which will allow us to draw some dividing lines between the different regimes and practices of those countries neighbouring Belgium.

Photo: Cochin International Contrainer Transhipment Terminal (Commons Wikimedia)

Donald Trump as President-elect: new symptom of a retreat of liberal values in the West?

The recent election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote have belied dominant predictions based on a long-held view that sees the occasional electoral victories of xenophobic and extreme right-wing movements in Western countries as mere bumps in a journey leading to a liberal, cosmopolitan world. However, the popular vote in two of the most advanced democracies in the world, along with the rise of racist demagogues in several European states seem to signal a worrying and growing success of populist ideologies resting on racism and anti-globalism, political authoritarianism and social conservatism. And an equally worrying shift towards “illiberal democracy”, i.e. a type of regime where democratically elected leaders enact legislations that suspend or limit civil liberties, press freedom or the independence of courts.

Cartoon (c) David Parkins


The UN and the fight against the illicit trade in small arms in 2016

In June 2016, fifteen years after the adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms (PoA), States gathered once more to assess progress achieved in the prevention and eradication of the illicit trade in small arms. Following the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014, the adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, 2016 will have been a year of transition and small steps forward for the United Nations small arms process. Not to mention the upcoming Third Review Conference of the PoA in 2018.

Burkina Faso and the reform of the army: where do we stand two years after the popular insurrection?

This paper analyzes the reform of the armed forces in Burkina Faso, two years after the collapse of the Blaise Compaoré regime. The reform is a continuation of the democratic change brought about by the October 2014 revolution. The stability of the new government headed by President Roch Kaboré and the need to respond to the terrorist threat are the main issues and challenges. Despite the changes recorded, the reform is still limited in its scope, because it doesn’t yet address the defense paradigm of the country.

Crédit photo : Forces armées nationales (FAN) du Burkina Faso (source : A.O)

Monitoring of regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa – October to December 2016

This quarterly monitoring, published by GRIP since 2011 is part of a project named “Contributing to improve human security, conflict prevention and strengthening the rule of law in Sub-Saharan countries” funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It aims to monitor the security situation in West Africa with a focus on Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal. It examines in particular broad internal security issues, regional tensions, and cross-border and transnational crimes.

Photo Credit: Manko Wattu Senegal (Great Opposition March)

The South Korean industrial defense base: an emerging global player

Over the last 60 years South Korea experienced a tremendous economical, industrial and technological development. The so-called Land of the Morning Calm has grown from one the poorest country after the Korean to the 11th world economy in terms of GDP. South Korea also developed an impressive industrial and technological defense base, coming from a total dependency on US imports to a total of 3.49 billion USD of defense products exports in 2015. In this analysis, we will attempt to scrutinize the industrial policies and the security context which made this growth possible. Then, we will analyse the KF-X project (4th generation combat aircraft) currently developed jointly by South Korea and Indonesia. This ambitious project represents a crucial test for the South Korean defense industry in terms of securing technology transfer and assembling capabilities.  (Full text in French only)         

(Photo credit: Korean Republic Armed Forces.

How does environmental crime affect peace and security in West Africa?

The issue of "environmental crime" is currently high at the international political agenda, but how about West Africa in particular when we know that this region is at the crossroads of wildlife trafficking? How does this phenomenon materialize in this region? This note precisely aims at outlining a mapping of practices and issues associated with environmental crime in this region of the world. After an overview of the main trafficking across West Africa, this analysis addresses in greater detail the issues associated with forest crime and illegal fishing, as well as their impact in terms of regional peace and security. Finally, this paper presents a synthetic review of the various political and legal mechanisms developed for the purpose of combating environmental crimes and abuses. (Full text in French only)

The UN General Assembly opens perspectives for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons

For the first time in two decades, the international community met at the United Nations First Committee to adopt or reject a concrete resolution proposal to take negotiations on multilateral nuclear disarmament forward. A large majority of states – result of the humanitarian initiative movement – supported by civil society proposed that in 2017, a legal instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons should be negotiated, despite strong opposition from the nuclear powers. It is therefore a real argumentative battle on the objectives and consequences of this resolution establishing a future treaty which took place between the different parties during this 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. (Full text in French only)

(Photo crédit: - vote OEWG)


Inside the Lockheed Martin’s System. Contribution on the debate on the replacement of the Belgian F-16

What political, economic, and military system looms behind Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter? In June 2014, the Belgian armed forces have launched a procedure intending at the replacement of their F-16 fighter-bomber planes. The F-35 is one of the five airplanes currently evaluated as possible successor for the F-16. Furthermore, many people believe Lockheed Martin’s machine has the favour of the Belgian pilots. This aim of this paper is to contextualize the Belgian debate which surrounds this replacement by exploring in a critical way the role of the social forces at play in this technical project.

Photo credit: (Our country sold sixteen F-16 fighter-bombers to Jordan: four two-seat and twelve single-seat)




North Korea: worst-case scenario?

North Korea is a strange country. Since Kim Jong-un took power, hopes of a new détente in the peninsula have been dashed by increasingly frequent provocations by Pyongyang – missiles launches and nuclear tests – with potentially disastrous regional consequences. In this way, North Korean actions prompted the issue missile defense to become a new locus of tensions between regional powers. From these developments, two fundamental questions arise: what capabilities does North Korea have? What does North Korea want? This is second part* of the analysis brings forward a critical view of Pyongyang’s ambitions and constrains as well as an open-ended probe into the diplomatic options available to the international community.

Crédit photo : les statues de Kim Il-sung et Kim Jong-il devant le "Palais du Soleil Kumsusan" - en fait, le mausolée érigé à la gloire de la dynastie Kim (source : collection privée)  

* First part : North Korea: Nuclear and ballistic stakes