New Global Arms Race Is Gathering Steam

The spending on defense needs has increased worldwide

Recent news reports make Russian people be proud of their country: Russia has left the USA behind and became the major exporter of weapons within two years. However, everyone thought that the USA would experience the arms sales boom after 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) distributed sensational information on June 17th. According to the report from the institute, the overall defense budget gained six percent in 2002 in comparison with 2001 and made up $794 billion (674 billion euro). The USA's share of all deliveries on the international market of arms made up 41 percent in 1998-2002, whereas Russia's share was 22 percent. According to SIPRI, the USA's defense spending in 2002 reached 43 percent of the entire defense expenditure in the world. The American defense budget increased by ten percent and provided 75 percent of the global increase of the spending on defense needs. SIPRI's Director Alyson J.K. Bailes confirmed: "Our figures show clearly that the bulk of the rapid increase in spending in 2002 is accounted for by the United States alone." The USA's predominance in the defense field is explained with the increase of the costs for the scientific research and new technological developments, whereas similar assignments in other countries were a lot lower. For example, there is a four-fold difference of the mentioned spending between the USA and West Europe.

In 2002, the countries of West Europe did not increase the defense spending at all. Russia increased the defense budget by 12 percent, China - by 18 percent. On the whole, the defense rating budget looks as follows: the USA, Japan, Great Britain, France, China, Germany. The trading list is different, though: in 2002, the USA came first in terms of arms sales, it was followed by Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain and Ukraine. The latter received the profit of $2,7 billion from selling arms abroad during 1998-2002.

According to the information from the Ukrainian Army, Conversion and Disarmament Research Center, the arms export in 2002 totaled $440-460 million, which was lower than in 2001-2000 ($520 and $500 million respectively). At the same time, experts say that the arms race has not reached the maximum of 1988 yet - two years before the Soviet Union broke up. In 1988, the defense spending was 16 percent higher in comparison with 2002. However, SIPRI's report did not take account of the American and British army operation in Iraq, the cost of which made up some $85 billion. Therefore, SIPRI's data can be corrected considerably.

The number of wars in the world reduced in 2002 vs. 2001 - from 24 to 21. Brushing aside the conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, all wars were waged on the territory of one state only. According to SIPRI, Iraq received weapons and modern technologies from abroad on a regular basis in the 1980s. The sum of transactions exceeded $25 billion at that time, the USSR was the major supplier of weapons to Iraq - $13 billion (France came second - five billion dollars). The USA did not stay aside either. said that Iraq had officially purchased weapons from the USA in the sum of $1,5 billion during 1985-1990. The list included poisons, germs, and other dangerous material that could be used for the production of biological or chemical weapons (anthrax spores, for example). Isn't it exactly what Americans are looking for in Iraq at present?

There is another interesting aspect about this issue: SIPRI's information differs from the one of the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC). According to the information from BICC, defense costs increased in the world in 2002 and made up $900 billion, and the lion's share of those costs fell on the United States. Experts said that the growth of the defense spending in the world and the USA-led strategy to protect its interests with the help of the military force might eventually lead to another arms race. Michael Broska, the chairman of the research department of the Bonn Center said that the USA's share in the world defense spending increased almost up to 40%. American expenditure on defense in 2002 gained 13 percent. Russia and China also increased their costs on defense, but their share in the world is rather small - four and five percent respectively. A lot of countries did not follow the trend to increase defense costs: 42 countries of the world cut their defense costs in 2001. In general, the gap between the USA and the rest of the world (from the point of view of the defense spending) is growing, according to BICC.

As the comparison between SIPRI's and BICC's data shows, BICC is more humble about Russian and Chinese military opportunities than SIPRI. The Bonn Center believes that the share of American costs on research and developments in the defense industry makes up two-thirds of the total amount of the spending worldwide. The dynamics of the employment in the American defense industry gives a reason to believe that the USA will soon be able to boast of the largest number of defense industry employees. At present moment, the American defense industry counts 2,3 million people. China has 2,5 million people employed in the national defense industry, but the country is currently reducing their number. In the USA, three employees work for every two soldiers in the defense industry, the circulation of the industry in America is more than the defense circulation in other countries. Forty-two of the world's 100 largest producers of arms are based in the USA.

According to BICC, the number of servicemen and the heavy armament units dropped in the world last year. The number of armed soldiers reduced considerably in Central Africa, Columbia and several countries in Central America. Michael Broska believes that it does not mean that the perspective of peace in the whole world has become more real. The expert said that the reduction of arms had been basically caused with replacing old arms with new ones, albeit in a smaller scale.

According to the overall index, which includes the level of defense spending, the number of employees in the industry, the number of heavy armament units and soldiers, the USA's share in the world makes up 22 percent. The second place on the list is taken by China - 15 percent, Russia comes third - seven percent. US Armed Forces count some 1,5 million soldiers and about 37,000 defense technology units. However, the USA stakes on high technologies. The costs on one American soldier made up $210,000 vs. the average level in the rest of the world - $25,000. The United States increase their military and technological power in response to a real or potential danger. However, BICC experts believe that this course of the American government is problematic, since it might lead to another global arms race. Defense needs make the first priority for the USA, while the struggle with poverty, social injustice and the destruction of environment is being pushed into the background. Expenses on the economic cooperation and development in the whole world make up only $57 billion at present, which is a lot less than the costs on the war in Iraq.

Author`s name Olga Savka