Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

United States Takes Lion's Share of Arms Deals around the World but the World Trade in Weapons Has Fallen Dramatically

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

United States Takes Lion's Share of Arms Deals around the World but the World Trade in Weapons Has Fallen Dramatically

Article excerpt

THE United States has clearly become the preeminent arms dealer of the post-cold-war world.

According to new figures from the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the US share of the globe's arms exports increased from 19.3 percent in 1981 to 37.8 percent in 1991. With the arms-sales infrastructure of the old Soviet Union now collapsed, that makes the US the major weapons supplier in the world today, by far.

Between 1987 and 1991, the US dealt $59 billion in weaponry, with about 60 percent of that shipped to developing countries.

But being the No. 1 arms seller in the globe does not signify what it used to mean. Part of the reason the US has risen to the top position is that the end of many exports from former Soviet republics, coupled with a general market softening in recent years, means that the overall world trade in arms has been falling.

In 1987, world weapon deals peaked at a near-record high of $68.7 billion, according to ACDA. In 1991, the last year for which ACDA has solid contract figures, that number fell to $25.5 billion.

"Arms imports dropped sharply in all regions of the world after most of them reached high points in 1987-89," notes the new ACDA World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers study.

Whether the US has fallen into its arms leadership position by default or not, it is well-positioned as a weapons supplier of the future. Major growth areas for arms in the 1990s, notes ACDA, will be sophisticated munitions and support equipment - things the US excels in producing. Major US systems such as the F-16 jet fighter and Patriot missiles remain well-known and sought after in countries around the globe.

US officials have long defended arms sales to friendly nations as an extension of American security policy. Helping an ally help itself, goes this thinking, bolsters stability and US interests around the world.

Nations that want arms will find places to buy them - if not from the US, then from another supplier. France, for instance, has been an aggressive arms exporter, as have several other Western European nations. Weapons contractors are undeniably a major industry in the US and other developed countries, and with military budgets shrinking many weapons-makers are looking overseas for new sales. …

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