Arms export numbers and positions



U.S. Still Number One Arms Exporter

By Rachel Stohl, Senior Analyst,

Center for Defense Information (CDI - Center for Defense Information - Security Policy Research Organization)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released its annual report,
"Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1992-1999," revealing
that the United States again leads the world in arms exports. According
to the report, worldwide arms transfer agreements, those that take into
consideration both developed and developing countries, totaled
approximately $30.3 billion in 1999.

The CRS report (also known as the Grimmett Report after its author,
Richard Grimmett) defines developing nations as all countries except the
United States, Russia, the European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia, and
New Zealand. The report examines the export of fourteen categories of
conventional weapons: tanks and self-propelled guns, artillery, armored
personnel carriers and armored cars, major surface combatants, minor
surface combatants, submarines, guided missile patrol boats, supersonic
combat aircraft, subsonic combat aircraft, other aircraft, helicopters,
surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, and anti-ship

The United States ranked first in all major categories. The U.S. led the
way with $11.8 billion worth of arms transfer agreements worldwide (38.9%),
up from the world leading $10.3 billion in 1998. For 1999 Russia was
second with $4.8 billion and Germany was third at $4 billion. The United
States also had the highest value of international arm deliveries in 1999
with $18.4 billion worth of weapons, more than 54% of the world total.
The United Kingdom was second with $4.5 billion worth of deliveries and
Russia was third with $2.7 billion.

In 1999 the developing world made 68% of all arms transfer agreements and
received 66.8% of all arms deliveries with the United States concluding
the most agreements with and deliveries to the developing world. At
.1 billion worth of agreements, the U.S. was party to 39.2% of the total
involving nations in the developing world. Russia was second with
$4.1 billion (19.9% of the total) and Germany third with billion
(9.7% of the world total). In terms of deliveries, the United States
delivered $11.4 billion worth of arms to developing countries for 50.1% of
the world total. The United Kingdom was second with $3.9 billion
(17.2% of the total), and France was third with $2.2 billion (9.7% of the

While the primary weapons exporters remain fairly constant, the major
customers for weapons in 1999 were somewhat different that in previous
years. In 1999 South Africa made the most agreements of all developing
nations with $3.3 billion worth of agreements. Egypt was second with
.6 billion and Israel third with $2.3 billion. However, between
1996-1999, the United Arab Emirates concluded $7.7 billion worth of
agreements, India $7.3 billion, and Saudi Arabia $7.1 billion to lead the
countries of the developing world. The developing world also received
$22.7 billion in arms deliveries in 1999. Saudi Arabia came first with
$6.9 billion in weapons deliveries (30.4% of the developing word's total
arms deliveries) with Taiwan second at $6.2 billion and Israel a distant
third at $2 billion in deliveries.

In addition to dissecting the arms trade numbers, the CRS report makes
predictions about the trends in weapons sales in the coming years. It
says that "As individual nations in the Near East, Asia, and Latin America
attempt to replace older military equipment, it is possible that
additional notable arms sales may result." However, the report also notes
that the financial problems of many potential customers, some due to
falling commodity prices, many prevent countries from undertaking
expensive weapons procurements.

The report also discusses trends among arms exporters. Of particular note
is that Russia doubled the value of its arms transfer agreements in 1999
after several years of falling export values. While Russia has had
difficulty marketing and selling weapons in the post-Cold War world, the
diversity of its weapons stocks availably and its willingness to make many
smaller sales for hard currency are seen as strong points. Although Iran
and Iraq have been lost as lucrative trading partners in the last decade,
Russia has found expanding arms markets in China and India. Both have
been beneficiaries of sophisticated weapons and technology transfers. The
report claims that this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable

Even so, U.S. dominance of the international arms market is in no danger
of falling, however. In fact, with additional export reforms, the U.S. will be better
positioned to export its wares with fewer restrictions. The report
asserts, "At the turn of the new century, however, the United States seems
best positioned to lead in new arms agreements with developing nations."
But, the political and economic situation of developing countries will
prevent many major arms purchases. The report says, "Furthermore, it
seems likely that very expensive weapons orders from individual developing
countries will be sporadic in the near term. Consequently, the overall
level of the arms trade is likely to remain generally flat for the
foreseeable future, with annual sales totals well below those of the
Persian Gulf War period."

While arms exports have some benefits to the American economy and
political standing, arms exports also come at a price. Arming our
"allies" to the teeth does not encourage sustainability or peace; it only
furthers arms races and boosts industry profits. The U.S. must reconsider
its arms export strategies and limit the number of weapons it sends to
already overly saturated and struggling economies. Offering assistance to
rebuild infrastructures, assist with healthcare, fund development programs,
and improve educational systems are better investments for U.S. industry
and sound foreign policy for the United States.

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