International arms sales grew 8 percent last year, reaching nearly $36.9 billion, the highest figure since 1994, according to a report by Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress.
“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 Richard Grimmett, specialist in national defense and author of the report.
The United States remained the world’s leading arms merchant with almost $18.6 billion in sales, the bulk of which (68 percent) went to developing nations. Russia was second with $7.7 billion in sales, followed by France with $4.1 billion, Germany with $1.1 billion, Britain with $600 million, China with $400 million and Italy with $100 million, according to Associated Press.
During the last eight years, countries in the Middle East–including Israel, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia–have led the world in weapons purchases, receiving over $106 billion in weapons, read an article on Salon.com.
Last year’s leading new buyers were the United Arab Emirates, which bought 80 U.S. F-16 fighters for $6.4 billion, followed by India, which purchased T-90 tanks and SU-30 fighter-bombers from Russia.
Asian countries–including China, India, Pakistan and South Korea–have purchased more than $61 billion worth of weapons. Latin American countries bought $8.5 billion, and African nations bought $6.5 billion worth of weapons. The report said the United States has been the leading supplier to every region except Africa.
China was profiled as a heavy buyer and moderate seller of weaponry, with most of its purchases coming from Russia and sales focusing on Pakistan, according to the report.
According to the Washington, D.C., -based Center for Defense Information, figures representing U.S. export of armaments skyrocketed under President Clinton’s administration.
The U.S. administration started approving weapons exports for domestic economic circumstances in 1995. At the same time, it opposed efforts to create a “Code of Conduct” governing countries eligible to receive U.S. weapons based on records of human rights and democracy, according to CDI.com.
The United States had supplied arms or military technology to 39 of the 42 conflict areas worldwide, wrote Frida Berrigan of the World Policy Institute, part of New York University in New York.
According to Salon.com, the congressional report noted that cash-strapped Russia plans to again sell advanced weaponry to Iran, something it has not done since 1995. It predicts that Russia will also pursue major weapons deals with Iraq should sanctions be lifted.
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.