Russia tops USA in arms sales and becomes world’s largest arms supplier

Russia has sold more weapons than the U.S. in 2005, first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The report, entitled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 1998-2005,” says that in 2005 Moscow surpassed U.S. and France in weapons sales, which totaled $7.1 billion.

Competition at the world arms sales market has become something of a continuation of the Cold War. Experts indicate that today’s competition is not a political struggle between the two nations that hold conflicting ideologies; it is an economic variety of competition and struggle for the world dominance. However, Russian military experts doubt the figures cited by the analytical service of U.S. congress and await the text of the report.

The congressional study says Russia has become a leading arms supplier following the recent sale of Russian weapons to Iran and China. Russia will supply 29 SA-15 surface-to-air missile systems to the Iranian Air Force. The second deal calls for the supply of 8 IL-78M Tanker Transport to China, Nezavizimaya Gazeta reports. The recent deals total $700 million. Russia would have sat next to France on the list of the world’s biggest arms exporters if the above deals had not been cut. France’s arms sales to developing nations reached a total of $6.3 billion. The U.S. delivered weapons to a total amount of $6.2 billion.

“The United Stated had dominated the highly competitive market of the conventional arms sales since the collapse of the USSR,” said Richard Grimmet, a military analyst who coauthored the report. “Now the situation has changed. Moscow is turning into an increasingly aggressive and pushy player on the weapons market. The market has been booming over the last few years. The arms race intensifies as a result of the developments,” added Grimmet.

Predictably enough, the Russian arms exports to Iran are the Pentagon’s biggest concern. “The crisis over the Iranian nuclear program is far from over,” said another author of the report Robert Bier, an expert with the Research Service of Library of U.S. Congress. “The Pentagon is unlikely to feel enthusiastic about the orders to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities should President Bush issue such orders tomorrow. The point is that Iran’s antiaircraft capability has become significantly stronger following the supply of Russian surface-to-air missile systems. Today nobody will dare assess the effectiveness of U.S. bombing raids. The same applies to Iranian retaliation strikes,” said Bier.

In view of the report by the Congressional Research Service, Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies commented on its findings with regard to Russia’s leading position in the arms sales to developing nations. “The expert community is highly skeptical about this source of information. We can’t understand the methods used by U.S. congressional analysts for calculating the volume of arms exports of a given country. Besides, the report is obviously biased in terms of political judgments,” said Konstantin Makienko, an expert with the above center, in a comment on the report.

According to Makienko, such countries as China and India can be regarded as developing on condition that certain factors are taken into consideration. The same applies to Malaysia, Algeria or Saudi Arabia. However, all these countries whose development levels do vary are referred to as developing nations by the authors of the report. “In any case, we should have the text of the report on hand. We need to look into the matter,” said Makienko.

The authors of the report cited official data contained in respective intergovernmental agreements for calculating the amount of conventional arms supplied to developing nations. The report says that developing nations accounted for 68% of all deals for the sale of conventional arms over the above period. The indicator equaled 64.3% from 2002 to 2005; it went up to 68.4% in 2005. Experts estimate that in 2005 the total sum of arms exports to developing nations stood at about $30.2 billion. Last year’s arms sales are estimated at $17.7 billion; the figure is a seven-year low, Gazeta reports.

Based on Russian media news reports

Translated by Guerman Grachev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov