Friday, November 23, 2007

The Business of War - Follow the Cash Flow

The United States maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and Britain, according to a Congressional study to be released Monday. Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers.

The report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations,” was produced by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, and presents a number of interesting observations linking arms sales and global politics. For example, Russia has been a major supplier of weapons to Iran in past years, including a $700 million deal for surface-to-air missiles in 2005.

Russia also continues to nurture an arms-trade relationship that is deeply disturbing to the Bush administration, by signing weapons deals with oil-rich Venezuela and its anti-American leader, Hugo Chávez.

The Russian agreements with Venezuela in 2006 included the sale of two dozen Su-30 fighter jets valued at more than $1 billion, along with attack and transport helicopters valued at more than $700 million.

Pakistan was a major recipient of American arms sales in 2006, including the $1.4 billion purchase of 36 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and $640 million in missiles and bombs. The deal included a package for $890 million in upgrades for Pakistan’s older versions of the F-16.

At the same time, the State Department’s own survey of global human rights in 2006 noted a variety of shortcomings in Pakistan’s record on human rights and democratization.

But the Bush administration has argued that it is important to maintain the support of a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the broader counterterrorism fight, in particular as Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders regroup in the rugged North-West Frontier Province along the Afghan border.

In 2006, the United States agreed to sell $10.3 billion in weapons to the developing world, or 35.8 percent of these deals worldwide, according to the study. Russia was second with $8.1 billion, or 28.1 percent, and Britain was third with $3.1 billion, or 10.8 percent.

Pakistan concluded $5.1 billion in agreements to buy arms in 2006. That total was followed by India with $3.5 billion in agreements and Saudi Arabia with $3.2 billion in deals.

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