People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 03

January 20, 2013



US Dominating Global Arms Bazaar


Yohannan Chemarapally


ACCORDING to the latest data released by American official sources, US arms sales worldwide have significantly increased this year. The annual survey by the US Congressional Research Survey (CRS) revealed that American arms manufacturers had sold weaponry worth a staggering 66.3 billion dollars. Most of the arms went to client nations situated in the volatile West Asian region. The CRS survey put the US far ahead of other major arms exporters like Russia, France and China. The CRS, which is a policy research arm of the US Congress, said in it annual report that the US led “in arms transfer agreements worldwide, making agreements valued at 66.3 billion dollars” in 2011.




Washington was responsible for 77 per cent of all the arms agreement signed globally last year. As much as 21.4 billion dollars more of US weapons sales were registered in 2011 than in the year before that. Russia only accounted for 5.6 per cent of the global arms sales last year. President Vladimir Putin has said that Russian arms sales in the first half of 2012 had crossed the 6.5 billion dollars mark. This was 14 per cent more than it was in the corresponding period last year. States like India, which till recently imported most of its defence hardware from Russia, are now turning towards the US and the West.


In 2011, Russia accounted for more than 50 per cent of India’s arms imports. In the last decade the figure hovered around 80 per cent. But Russia has found new markets in Latin America and other parts of the world. Moscow has even bagged new orders for military hardware from Iraq. A deal worth 4.2 billion dollars was signed in October with the Iraqi government, making Russia the second biggest supplier of arms to the country after the US. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was one of the biggest recipients of Russian weaponry. Russia is also the main supplier of weaponry to embattled Syria. Algeria and Iran are the other countries that buy significant amounts of Russian armaments. After the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, the lucrative Libyan arms market is now being monopolised by the West.


The US has already clinched deals worth more than 6.9 billion dollars with India and still more lucrative contracts are in the pipeline. Taiwan brought the American Patriot anti-missile batteries for more than two billion dollars. Beijing has angrily criticised this particular sale, saying that it would only add to the tensions in the region. China is embroiled in territorial disputes over marine boundaries with many of its neighbours. Arms dealers around the world are using the rising military tensions to increases sales in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. China has been peacefully seeking reunification with Taiwan since 1949.




Andrew Shapiro, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, told the US media in late August that 2012 “is already a record breaking year for foreign military sales. We have already surpassed 50 billion dollars in sales in fiscal year 2012.” The fiscal year in the US ended in September. The bulk of the American weaponry went to developing nations. However, the earnings from the sale of military hardware is estimated to only around one-eleventh of the total American defence spending that will be around 766 billion dollars.


More than half of the money from the defence deals has come from the wealthy Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Saudis have placed orders for 84 advanced F-15 fighters, Apache and Black Hawk helicopters and other sophisticated weaponry. The UAE chose to invest 3.5 billion dollars in a missile defence system --- the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It is being touted as an advanced anti-missile shield. The dramatic rise in the sales of US made weaponry comes at a time when the region is witnessing political and military turmoil. Pro-western monarchies are feeling threatened by the Arab Spring. Together with the West, they had succeeded in confining “regime change” syndrome to the Arab countries that were under civilian, albeit authoritarian control. But now the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring have impacted on most of the monarchies, especially Bahrain, Morocco and Jordan. American arms have gone a long way in bolstering these regimes.


Saudi Arabia has been helping the beleaguered Bahraini monarchy in crushing the pro-democracy movement there. The Obama administration also announced in the middle of this year that it was going to resume arms sales to the Kingdom of Bahrain. The US had signed a 53 million dollars arms deal with the country in 2011 but had not yet implemented the agreement following protests from some American lawmakers. The deal included the sale of Humvee combat vehicles, missiles and rocket launchers. Human Rights Watch (HRW) had issued a statement criticising the American decision to supply weaponry at a time when the kingdom was witnessing the “continued deterioration” of the human rights situation.


In Syria, the sophisticated weaponry supplied by the US to Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been given to the armed groups fighting against Syria, one of the last secular governments left in the region. The bogey of a “nuclear” Iran has also been used to whip up a fear psychosis among the pro-western regimes in the region.




The fact that Israel is leading the chorus for an all out war against Iran has not stopped the Saudi elite from viewing Teheran as the main strategic threat to their interests. The amount of weaponry sold to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries is estimated to be more than six times the military budget of Iran. US officials have told the media that it was the policy goal of the Obama administration to work with America’s allies in the Gulf in building a regional missile defence system that would protect them from the threat of an Iranian attack. America’s wealthy allies in the region are picking up the huge tab involved in assembling a missile shield on a country by country basis.


In the latest Globalisation Militarisation Index (GMI) report released by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), Israel occupies the top spot as the world’s most militarised nation. Israel which seems to be all set to launch another military attack on the hapless people of Gaza has been topping the GMI list almost every time for the last 20 years. The second place is occupied by Singapore, another close military ally of the West. The city state has also been occupying the runners-up position for many years now. Iran which Israel is trying to paint as a threat to its survival and world peace only occupies the 34th position.


Six of the nations in the GMI’s list of top ten militarised countries are located in the volatile West Asian region. They include Syria (position 3), Jordan (position 5), Kuwait (position 8), Bahrain (position 8) and Saudi Arabia (position 10). This is conclusive evidence that the West Asian region continues to be the most militarised region in the world. Iran’s neighbour Azerbaijan, which is now very close militarily to the West, occupies the eighth position. The energy rich country seems to have used a lot of its oil and gas revenue to buy modern military equipment mainly from the West. The arms contagion seems to be spreading from West Asia to yet another energy rich and politically sensitive region — Central Asia. Azerbaijan and Armenia had fought a brief war after the collapse of the Soviet Union for the control of the Nagorno Karabakh enclave. Azerbaijan lost that war. It may have started preparations for another round.


India and China which have been both significantly increasing their defence budgets are ranked 71 and 82 respectively. The US was ranked at 29. Sub-Saharan African and Latin American countries figure low in the GMI list. Only Angola, flush with oil revenues, is an exception figuring 30th on the list. The civil war there was over more than a decade ago but the country faces a secessionist threat in its oil rich Gabinda province on the border with Congo.


The BICC is funded by the German federal government. The GMI defines the degree of militarisation of a country by comparing military expenditures with the gross domestic product and other indicators, such as the budgetary allocations for health and education. The GMI analysis is also based on the data put out by the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the IMF and the World Health Organisation.