Among the member states in NATO there has been much dispute over the laws and regulations of arms dealing. There is currently an estimated 18 billion dollar arms industry in the world and a staggering amount of weapons are flowing from Europe to the Middle East.
Many of the sellers include prominent members of NATO, including but not limited to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, who was responsible for 33% of arms dealing exports in the years from 2011 to 2015.
The weapons trade is said to be helping fuel tensions and instability in the Middle East. The increased amount of arms import in the Middle Eastern governments may be caused by fears of an insecure future due to recent oil price drops and the rise of terrorist activity and organizations in the region, including ISIS.
There is growing concern that since countries in the Middle East have started buying weapons, they will use their newly purchased weapons to attack other countries. Countries like Iran have proved to be willing to intervene in crisis areas in the Middle East to pursue their own goals. Many NATO members also sell a considerably high amount of weapons to the Asian-Pacific nations and, while trying to stay neutral, sell weapons to both sides of the many disputes in the area, such as in India and Pakistan.
Many weapons are also sold to China and its enemies. There had been an arms trade embargo set on China after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 by the EU, however it was often worked around, often by only selling parts of weapons instead of full weapons. Because of this, there has been calls to start resolving the and revising the laws and regulations of arms dealing.
Europe, like many other places in the world, has a black market in guns. However, there has recently been a huge influx of illegal and legal guns sold in Belgium that have flowed around Europe. The weapon of choice for most planning terrorist attacks in Europe seems to be simple explosives, as the bombings in Madrid and London back in 2004 and 2005 showed. But now, criminals seem to have also acquired illegal firearms, ranging from simple pistols to military grade assault rifles.
Belgium had always been known for its large import and export of firearms, high quality firearms and its very liberal domestic gun regulations. However, Belgium’s gun laws became more strict after 2006. Despite this, there are still a lot of guns being sold and traded around Belgium and its borders, which has led to a noticeable rise in military grade guns being used by criminals.
These weapons likely originated from the Balkans. After the Balkan wars that occurred in the 1990s, many firearms had begun to end up in the hands of civilians. These guns were then smuggled into western Europe, causing a huge influx of illegal weapons to spread there. Despite much tougher gun laws, the alarmingly profitable illegal firearms industry has still flourished.
The problem significantly affects Belgium’s neighboring countries. Police in the Netherlands have complained about how drug gangs have started using Kalashnikovs instead of pistols due Belgium’s arms trafficking. Illegal arms dealing has always been the blood of organized crime, but it has also found profit from selling firearms to jihadists.
Many large-scale terror incidents that have happened in Europe had connections to the Belgian illegal arms trade. For example, the jihadist attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels that took place in 2014 was committed by a man who wielded an illegally purchased Kalashnikov rifle. The European Union agrees that something must be done to combat the illegal trafficking of weapons in Europe.
Many member states of NATO are negatively affected by the illegal weapons trade, which is why we strongly believe that we must work towards negotiating a solution for this alarming problem.