Arms sales leap to record post-cold war levels

By Richard Norton-Taylor

The Manchester Guardian
Friday October 23, 1998

Arms sales soared last year to record post-cold war levels, with Britain consolidating its position as the world's second biggest weapons exporter, an authoritative study showed yesterday.

Britain supplied arms worth $8.6 billion (stlg5 billion), an increase of 5 per cent, says the latest issue of The Military Balance, an annual review compiled by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

While the United States continued to dominate the world's arms trade - worth about $47 billion last year - the report paints a grim picture of the situation in Russia. Its share of the international arms market fell from more than 35 per cent 10 years ago to 5.4 per cent last year. Russia also faces serious problems at home, with a severe shortage of qualified officers and difficulties in maintaining an operational nuclear force, even at levels allowed by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start-2).

The study says: "Even if Start-2 is ratified by the Duma, it will be difficult for the new permitted level of 2,300 warheads to be maintained in operational condition."

The report also reveals that for nearly three months this summer Russia had no nuclear missile-carrying submarine at sea.

The international arms market grew by about 12 percent last year, bringing the increase during the past two years in real terms to about 36 per cent, according to the institute.

The report estimates that the arms market will slow down during the next two years, but will take off again at the turn of the century.

Although it does not say which countries Britain supplied arms to, they include Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India and Pakistan - all of them involved in regional disputes or political conflict.

Saudi Arabia imported $11 billion worth of military equipment, significantly more than any other country.  Imports included 36 Tornado bombers and 20 Hawk trainers manufactured by British Aerospace.

The study highlights concern about Iran's test this year of a medium-range ballistic missile, the Shihab-3, designed to have a maximum range of just over 650 miles - sufficient to reach Israel and Iraq.

The study says Iran is reported to be developing a longer-range missile.

Introducing the report, Dr John Chipman, the institute's director, questioned the efficacy of diplomacy backed up by the threat of air power alone, without the use of ground troops. He said: "Stand-off military threats invite only partial and temporary capitulation. Once the threat to use air power has been met by some concessions, building up the threat again becomes both politically and technically more difficult."

Copyright Guardian Media Group plc.1998

Addendum to above 'Arms' article:

The number of nuclear weapons worldwide has been cut in half during the past decade, declining from a peak of around 70,000 in 1986 to 35,000 or fewer today.  But the destructive power of today's arsenal remains enormous, the equivalent of 500,000 nuclear bombs of the size that destroyed Hiroshima. If current arms control plans are realized, the total number of nuclear weapons in the world could fall to 15,000-20,000 by the year 2007. But the destructive power of even that residual arsenal is likely to exceed 200,000-300,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The use of even a small fraction of the world's nuclear arsenal would be a disaster unparalleled by anything experienced in the history of the human race.

And a final note sent in by a Reader:

Colombia have 39 millions of habitants and only a little percent of them are agree with violence (150.000 in the army, 40.000 in the guerrillas (leftish) and 10.000 in a rightish army that was created by the owners of farms to protect their goods against the leftishs). I do not know how much drug lords there are here but I do not think they are more than 100.000 (editor - total 300,000 or less than 1%). The rest of us hate violence.


The message: less than 1% of people with guns can destroy life, peace and hope for the 99% of the population.


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