Thom Shanker :
©New York Times, August 21, 2001
U.S. Keeps Its Lead in Weapons Exports as Sales Surge Worldwide
WASHINGTON International arms sales jumped 8 percent last
year, to nearly $36.9 billion, with the United States further
consolidating its stature as the supplier of choice, especially in
developing countries, according to a new congressional report.
American manufacturers signed contracts for just under $18.6
billion, or about half of all weapons sold on the world market
during 2000, with 68 percent of the American weapons bought by
Russia followed, with $7.7 billion in sales, then France with $4.1
billion, Germany with $1.1 billion, Britain with $600 million, China
with $400 million and Italy with $100 million.
The statistics are contained in a study, "Conventional Arms
Transfers to Developing Nations, 1993-2000," published by the
Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of
The report, which is updated each year, is one of the most
authoritative sources on weapons sales openly available to the
The author, Richard Grimmett, notes in the introduction that
developing nations remain the largest market for weapons, and a
"Despite global changes since the Cold War's end, the developing
world continues to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales
activity by conventional weapons suppliers," wrote Mr. Grimmett,
a specialist in national defense at the research service.
Worldwide arms sales rose in 2000 for the third consecutive year.
The previous year, international weapons sales were nearly $34
billion, when measured in year 2000 dollars.
The value of sales agreements with developing nations was $25.4
billion in 2000, the highest in constant dollars since 1994. The two
leaders in sales, the United States and Russia, increased the value
of contracts signed in 2000.
The report is scrupulously nonpartisan. But its findings will
doubtless offer more material for human rights and arms-control
organizations that criticize the American government - Democratic
and Republican administrations - for preaching peaceful relations
abroad while allowing American contractors to continue arming
Certain details also underscore national security challenges for the
The study documents a small but tangible supplier-buyer
relationship between Russia and Iran during a time when President
George W. Bush is pressing Moscow to join the United States in
putting aside the three-decade-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
One inducement that administration officials said they might put on
the table is to buy Russian interceptors for a missile-defense shield.
Another would be to offer joint development for high-technology
sensors, communications systems or "kill vehicles" of an eventual
At the same time, however, administration officials express
concerns that a Russia-Iran arms relationship could compromise
American technological secrets shared with Russia, in addition to
destabilizing the region.
There are two ways to track the flow of arms: by sales contracts
and by deliveries. The study found that between 1997 and 2000,
Russia agreed to sell Iran $300 million in weapons, as measured in
constant dollars. However, during that same period, Russia
delivered $800 million in arms to Iran.
"In late 2000, Russia served public notice that it again intended to
pursue major arms sales with Iran, despite objections from the
United States," the report states. The administration's arguments
for a missile shield beyond the limits of the ABM Treaty cite Iraq
and North Korea as the major threats, and as the report notes,
"Iraq was once a major purchaser of advanced weaponry from
Russia," but not since the Gulf War in 1991.
"Russia would clearly pursue new major weapons deals with Iraq,
if current UN sanctions on Iraq that ban Iraqi arms purchases are
lifted," the report states.
Russia's principal clients for weapons are India and China. But
Moscow enters into joint production deals with these nations,
which raises the possibility that eventually those countries will
make the arms at home, curtailing purchases despite Russia's
desire to earn hard currency.
The report also warns about China's role in the arms market,
"With a need for hard currency, and some military products
(especially missiles) that some developing countries would like to
acquire, China can present an important obstacle to efforts to stem
proliferation of advanced missile systems to some areas of the
developing world where political and military tensions are
After reaching a peak of $2.7 billion in weapons sales in 1999,
China dropped to $400 million last year, the report states, with
Pakistan remaining a major buyer.
The increase in sales by the United States, from $12.9 billion in
1999 to nearly $18.6 billion, was powered by a $6.4 billion sale
of 80 F-16 jet fighters to the United Arab Emirates.
Russia substantially increased its sales as well, from $4.1 billion in
1999 to $7.7 billion.
The Emirates, by virtue of the purchase of jets from the United
States, led the developing world in signing weapons contracts in
2000, with $7.4 billion. India, which signed $4.8 billion in deals,
ranked second, followed by South Korea, which signed $2.3
billion in contracts.