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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 39, July - August 1999

Congressional Research Service Arms Sales Study

On 6 August, the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) released its annual review of global arms sales. Overall, the study recorded $23 billion of arms sales in 1998, compared to $21.5 billion in 1997 and $37.4 billion in 1993. The single biggest fall-off in demand, the report found, has been from developing countries, which accounted for $13.2 billion of sales in 1993, compared to $23 billion of sales five years earlier. The Asian financial crisis was pinpointed by the CRS report as a major factor in this downturn. In total, between 1991 and 1998 69.4% of all arms sold were purchased by developing States.

The report listed the US as the leading arms trader ($7.1 billion of sales in 1998, down from $21.5 in 1993 but an increase on the 1997 figure of $5.7 billion), followed by Germany ($5.5 billion) and France ($3 billion). Russia sold only $1.8 billion of arms, down from $8.2 in 1993. Among purchasers, Saudi Arabia ($2.7 billion) led the way, closely followed by neighbour the United Arab Emirates ($2.5 billion) and Malaysia ($2.1 billion). Other major purchasers were Egypt ($1.2 billion), Algeria, Israel and Kuwait ($500 million) and Ethiopia, India and the Republic of Korea ($400 million).

The report's author was Richard F. Grimmett, who wrote in his introduction: "Competition for available arms continues to intensify among major weapons suppliers... The limited resources of most developing nations to expend on weapons, and the need of many selling nations to secure cash for their weapons, continues to place constraints on significant expansion of the arms trade. ... The overall level of the arms trade is likely to remain fairly static in the foreseeable future, not approaching the sales levels of the Cold War or Persian Gulf War periods..."

Reports: US still biggest arms provider, Associated Press, 6 August; Global weapons sales decline - report, Reuters, 8 August.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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