U.S., Russia, Germany Led Worldwide Arms Sales
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr. - Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- Global arms sales in 2003 fell approximately 12 percent to $25.6 billion compared with $29.14 billion in 2002, the third consecutive year total arms sales have fallen, according to a U.S. government report.
"Relationships between arms suppliers and recipients continue to evolve in response to changing political, military and economic circumstances," a Congressional Research Service report says. "Nonetheless, the developing world continues to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by conventional weapons suppliers."
The United States led worldwide weapons sales in 2003 with sales totaling $14.5 billion, or 56.7 percent of all arms agreements, up from $13.6 billion in 2002, the report said.
Russia was ranked second in the report with arms sales of $4.3 billion, or 16.8 percent of all global sales in 2003, compared with sales of $5.9 billion in 2002. Germany had arms sales of $1.4 billion in 2003, or 3.9 percent of global sales, the report said.
"The United States and Russia collectively made [arms sales] agreements in 2003 valued at over $18.8 billion, 73.5 percent of all international arms transfer agreements made by all supplies," the report said.
The report, "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations," is published annually by the Congressional Research Service, which is part of the U.S. Library of Congress. The unclassified study, written by national defense specialist Richard Grimmett, is considered the most authoritative compilation of statistics on global conventional arms sales available.
"The downturn in weapons orders worldwide since 2000 has been notable. Were it not for a few large military aircraft orders in 2003, the total for that year would have been substantially lower," the report said.
The general trend among developed nations in recent years is to protect important elements of their national military industrial bases by limiting arms purchases from other developed nations, the report said.
"Instead they have placed greater emphasis on joint production of various weapons systems as a more effective way to preserve a domestic weapons production capability, while sharing the costs of new weapons development," the report said.
France ranked fourth with sales of $1 billion in 2003, Italy fifth with $600 million, China sixth with $300 million, and Britain seventh with $100 million. Other European nations collectively sold $2.3 billion, and all other nations with $1.1 billion, the report said.
The report also said that, between 1996 and 1999, no surface-to-surface missiles were delivered to developing nations by the United States, Russia, China or European arms manufacturers, while a nation simply classified as "other" sold 30 such missiles. And between 2000 and 2003, another 20 surface-to-surface missiles were sold by a nation in that category, the report said, but without identifying the nation.
The report found that developing nations in the Middle East were making fewer weapons purchases, while developing nations in Asia were making larger increases in arms purchases.
"Nonetheless, these apparent trends are subject to abrupt change based on the strength of either the international or regional economies," the report said. "The health of the domestic economies in various nations in the developing world continues to be a very significant factor in their arms purchasing decisions."
Conventional arms categories in the report include: tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers and armored cars, major and minor naval surface ships, submarines, guided missile patrol boats, supersonic combat aircraft, subsonic combat aircraft, other types of conventional aircraft, helicopters, surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, and anti-ship missiles.
In addition to major arms sales items, developed nations also provide spare parts, ammunition, ordnance, and training and support services, the report said.
The United Arab Emirates was the leading developing world arms buyer from 1996-2003, with purchases totaling $15.7 billion. China was second with purchases of $13.7 billion, followed by Egypt with $13.6 billion, India with $12.6 billion, Israel with $9.9 billion, Saudi Arabia with $9.4 billion, South Korea with $8.8 billion, South Africa with $5.3 billion, Malaysia with $5 billion, and Pakistan with $3.8 billion, the report said.