September 11, 2004
As of 2003, for the third year in a row, international arms sales fell. Arms exports fell 12 percent, to $25.6 billion, in 2003, from the previous year. This trend is another aftereffect of the end of the Cold War in 1991. Spending on new weapons development fell considerably in the 1990s. So theres simply less new stuff to buy, and lots of nifty, and economical, upgrades for sale. The United States remains the largest exporter of weapons, selling $14.5 billion in 2003. Russia was a distant second with $4.3 billion, and Germany an even more distant third at $1.4 billion. The US and Russia together accounted for some 73 percent of weapons exports.
The biggest arms buyer (nearly all of it imported) was the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Persian Gulf. The UAE has a lot of oil, few people (2.5 million, only 25 percent are natives) and threatening neighbors (Saudi Arabia and Iran.) So the UAE develops lots of foreign friends (especially the United States and Britain), and stocks up on the latest weapons. The idea is, if they havent got quantity (fewer than 70,000 troops), they can go for quality. The second largest purchaser of weapons was China, at $13.7 billion. But China builds a lot of its own stuff. To a lesser extent, so did Egypt ($13.6 billion) and India ($12.6 billion.) Egypt has no local enemies (Israel cant be defeated, and Libya and Sudan pose no real threat), so the arms expenditures are all for show. Israel also bought $9.9 billion worth last year. India does have a nasty feud going with Pakistan, which only bought $3.8 billion in arms last year.
Many countries buy lots of weapons so that they can equip troops to serve as a police (peacekeeper) forces in their region. Thats why South Africa bought $5.3 billion worth of stuff last year. South Korea ($8.8 billion) has a nasty neighbor to the north. But for many countries, the weapons are either for pride, to fuel corrupt payoffs to political cronies, or better arm the gunmen who are keeping the current dictator in power.