The Arms Market and the Arms Race

Chronique de Rodrigue Tremblay

"A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he cannot sit on it."

William Ralph Inge

“What's the point of having this superb military... if we can't use it?”

Madeleine Albright, former American ambassador to the UN and former Sec. of State

"It is not an exaggeration to say that it is clearly in the interests of the world's leading arms exporters to make sure that there is always a war going on somewhere."

Marilyn Waring (Counting for Nothing)


One indication of the current breaking down of
international law is
the ongoing arms race to obtain or enlarge the stocks
of both nuclear and conventional weapons, and to
militarize space.
As far as nuclear arms proliferation is
concerned, we all know about the efforts by a growing
number of countries to obtain them. This is happening
even though the [1968 Treaty on Non-Proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
was designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.
Far from contracting, the club of countries with
nuclear capabilities (USA, Russia, China, France,
United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel) is expanding,
while the goal of nuclear disarmament has become a
dead letter.
Some among the most heavily armed countries, such as
the United States, have revealed plans to replace
their ageing nuclear weapons stockpiles with more
modern and more deadly weapons. The Bush-Cheney
Administration, for instance, announced last March 5
(2006), its plan for building [as many as 125 new
nuclear bombs
a year, from 2010 to 2022, while at the same time
assuring other nations that it is not seeking a new
arms race. - Last June 13 (2006), the Bush-Cheney
administration also made it clear that whatever the
1967 U.N. treaty
banning weapons of mass destruction from space says,
the United States is going ahead with plans to develop
weapons for use in Outer Space,
with the clear intention of asserting American
dominance of this common property of humankind. If
needs be, the Bush-Cheney administration will not
hesitate to pull out of the 1967 Treaty, just as it
pulled out, in 2002, from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile (ABM) Treaty. It is obvious that a nuclear
arms race is on the way, with very few checks in its
In the world of conventional weapons, their production, their
spread and their use is even more endemic. Existing
international conventions against the use of inhumane
weapons against populations, such as the [1980
Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW),
->] are openly
violated, as the [summer 2006 destruction of Lebanon by
vividly illustrated. And, what is more, new efforts to
restrict their proliferation, especially in the
developing world, such as the proposed [Arms Trade
are being resisted by some of the countries that are
the larger producers and exporters of armaments.
On October 27 (2006), for example, the vast majority
(139) of countries represented at the United Nations
voted an historic resolution to have the new [UN
Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon
->] prepare a
global Arms Trade Treaty for 2007. The aim is to
introduce some regulation of the wide-open
international arms transfers that fuel conflict,
poverty and serious human rights violations in many
developing countries. However, the main exporter of
armaments, the United States, voted against the
resolution. -It was the only country to vote no.
Twenty-four countries, among them large arms exporters
such as Russia and China, abstained. It can be
considered a tribute to some European countries that
are large arms exporters, such as France, Great
Britain and Germany, that they supported the
resolution in favor of the coming arms trade control
treaty. These European countries, at least, are
showing some leadership, even though the U.S. has
abdicated any pretense of leadership in this domain. -- To be effective, however, the proposed treaty would
need to be implemented by all countries that are large
producers and exporters of armaments and by most other
countries. The reason is simple: a weapons company
with its headquarters in a given country with strict
export controls can always circumvent national
regulations by manufacturing weapons in a
non-complying country. Even then, there would remain
the hurdle of stopping those underground international
arms dealers who do their illegal trade without
requesting any export licenses.
The total international arms trade has been
increasing rapidly, in 2005 reaching an all-time high
in current dollars of $44.2 billion (from $38.9
billion in 2004). [The United States is the world's
leading conventional arms exporting nation,
accounting for about 29 percent of all international
arms trade. Last year, in 2005, it exported $12.8
billion of military gear of all sorts, about half of
it ($6.2 billion) going to developing nations. The
other main arms exporting nations last year were
France (second with $7.9 billion in total arms sales)
and Russia (the third exporter, with $7.4 billion in
total sales). The United Kingdom and China came in
behind, with $2.8 and $2.1 billion in arms exports in
2005. Overall, however, the 25 countries of Western
Europe surpass the U.S. in trade of armaments, with
about 44 percent of total arms exports. The other two
non-Western countries, Russia and China, are
responsible respectively for about 17 percent and 5
percent of total world arms exports.
Such a large-scale trade in armaments has the
expected consequences of fueling regional conflicts,
when they are not solidifying undemocratic and abusive
regimes. It also has the effect of increasing poverty
in countries that are already poor. But is it
realistic to want to reduce arms exports without at
the same time attempting to reduce military
Indeed, the fundamental cause of the flourishing
international trade in armaments is the large military
establishments that industrial countries subsidize
year after year. [The Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute ->] has
estimated that total world military expenditures, (which
had been falling from 1991 to 1996), are on the rise
again, especially since 2001, and amounted to $1,118
billion in current dollars, in 2005, or 2.5 per cent
of total world production, or again, about $173 per
capita. This is big business and it can only be
sustained with the threat of oncoming armed conflicts
or through arms exports to countries in turmoil.
is responsible for close to half (48% in 2005) of all
military expenditures in the world. It is, therefore,
not too surprising that it is also the largest arms
exporter and that many of its industries are reluctant
to loose such a lucrative business. Fourteen other
countries account for about 36 per cent of global
military expenditures, with such countries as Russia,
UK, France, Japan and China, each spending about 4 to
5 per cent of the total. In other words, [the five
nuclear members of the U.N. Security Council
->] (USA, Russia,
China, U.K. and France) are also the world's largest
military spenders -Therefore, it is only normal that
leadership on this matter should originate from this
Rodrigue Tremblay is
professor emeritus of economics at the University of
Montreal and can be reached at
He is the author of the
book 'The New American Empire'
Visit his blog site at.
Author's Website:
Pour la version originale, cliquer ici

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