Global Arms Market Still U.S. Domain

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Global Arms Market Still U.S. Domain


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


Defying a continuing decline in the global conventional arms market, the United States increased its weapons sales again last year, according to an annual report published Aug. 26 by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The United States accounted for more than half of all new arms sales agreements in 2003, as global arms sales declined for the third year in a row, while U.S. sales rose for the second year running. Countries worldwide agreed to nearly $26 billion in new arms purchases last year and made actual transfers worth almost $29 billion. The figures were compiled by Richard Grimmett, a CRS analyst who for more than two decades has authored the report, which is generally considered the best public accounting of the global arms trade.

The worldwide totals represented a continuing slowdown in the arms bazaar over the past several years from peaks of $41 billion in new agreements in 2000 and $57.5 billion in deliveries in 1998. All figures are adjusted for inflation.

Arms sales agreements typically take years before they result in actual exports. For example, the high level of 1998 deliveries resulted largely from the completion of a splurge of agreements signed following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Grimmett attributed the downturn of the past few years to several factors, the most prominent being a lack of money in the pockets of potential buyers. Due to this shortage of funds, many governments are maintaining and upgrading their existing weaponry rather than purchasing expensive new hardware. There is also a growing interest by some countries in building their own weapons instead of importing them. Moreover, several major arms purchasers, particularly in the Middle East, are still absorbing armaments acquired over the last decade.

Still, the United States, which has been unrivaled as an arms exporter since the end of the Cold War, bucked the downward trend. Washington secured nearly a $1 billion increase from 2002 in new arms sales agreements, to $14.5 billion-its second-highest mark in the eight-year period covered by the report. Since 1996, the United States has concluded $105 billion in arms sales, while its closest competitor, Russia, amassed only $40 billion in new deals.

Based on its past sales, the United States is best positioned to take advantage of the growing emphasis on retaining and relying on older weapons. "The sale of munitions, upgrades to existing systems, spare parts, training and support services to developing nations worldwide account for a very substantial portion of the total value of U. …

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