The U.S.: Arms Merchant to the Developing World

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The arms merchants to the developing world, 2011.

The Congressional Research Service’s latest annual compendium of global arms sales shows the U.S. to be the behemoth when it comes to such commerce. Some highlights:

— Per the pie chart, the U.S. accounted for 79% of the world’s weapons sales to developing nations in 2011, up from 44% in 2010.

— The U.S. accounted for 56% of the world’s weapons sales to all nations from 2008 to 2011, up from 31% from 2004 to 2007.

Many of the weapons are being purchased by Saudi Arabia and other nations in its neighborhood, bulking up for a possible war with Iran.

Notes the report, by CRS’s Richard F. Grimmett and Paul K. Kerr:

In 2011, the United States led in arms transfer agreements worldwide, making agreements valued at $66.3 billion (77.7% of all such agreements), an extraordinary increase from $21.4 billion in 2010. The United States worldwide agreements total in 2011 is the largest for a single year in the history of the U.S. arms export program.

The CRS, in its non-judgmental tone, notes how the rationale for such deals has changed:

For decades, during the height of the Cold War, providing conventional weapons to friendly states was an instrument of foreign policy utilized by the United States and its allies. This was equally true for the Soviet Union and its allies. The underlying rationale given for U.S. arms transfer policy then was to help ensure that friendly states were not placed at risk through a military disadvantage created by arms transfers by the Soviet Union or its allies. Following the Cold War’s end, U.S. arms transfer policy has been based on maintaining or augmenting friendly and allied nations’ ability to deal with regional security threats and concerns.

But every once in awhile it confirms the obvious, as politically-incorrect as it may be to do:

Whereas the principal motivation for arms sales by key foreign suppliers in earlier years might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much, if not more, on economic considerations as those of foreign or national security policy.

Kind of reminds Battleland of General Motors, which achieved 54% of the U.S. car market in 1954. Over the past three years, the U.S. has accounted for 54% of the arms sales to the developing world.

h/t Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists (Per congressional order, CRS reports are not officially released; Aftergood manages to get most of them and posts them online for the folks who pay for them).