Global Arms Sales Dropped Sharply in 2010, Study Finds
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — The global economic crisis may set off upheaval and even unrest, but the ability of the world’s governments to buy new military hardware was sharply curtailed last year by strains on their national treasuries, according to a new Congressional study.
Worldwide arms sales in 2010 totaled $40.4 billion, a drop of 38 percent from the $65.2 billion in arms deals signed in 2009 and the lowest total since 2003, the study found.
Even in this tight market, the United States maintained its dominating position in the global arms bazaar, signing $21.3 billion in worldwide arms sales, or 52.7 percent of all weapons deals, a drop from $22.6 billion in 2009.
Russia was second with $7.8 billion in arms sales in 2010, or 19.3 percent of the market, compared with $12.8 billion in 2009. Following the United States and Russia in sales were France, Britain, China, Germany and Italy.
Developing nations continued to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales, according to the report, by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress. The annual study is considered the most detailed collection of unclassified global arms sales data available to the public.
The report found that the total value of arms transfer deals with developing nations last year was $30.7 billion, or 76.2 percent of worldwide deals. That was a drop from $49.8 billion in 2009.
India, which signed $5.8 billion in weapons transfer deals, was the top purchaser in the developing world last year, followed by Taiwan with $2.7 billion in agreements and Saudi Arabia with $2.2 billion in deals. Other major purchasers were Egypt, Israel, Algeria, Syria, South Korea, Singapore and Jordan.
The United States was not only the largest weapons supplier last year, but also the main source of weapons to the developing world, accounting for about $14.9 billion of these deals — or 48.6 percent. That was a striking rise from 2009, when its sales of $15.1 billion to developing nations accounted for 30.3 percent of the market.
Russia was second in arms deals with developing nations last year, signing $7.6 billion in agreements, or about 24.7 percent.
“Worldwide weapons sales declined generally in 2010 in response to the constraints created by the tenuous state of the global economy,” wrote Richard F. Grimmett, a specialist in international security at the Congressional Research Service and author of the study.
“In view of budget difficulties faced by many purchasing nations, they chose to defer or limit the purchase of new major weapons systems,” he wrote. “Some nations chose to limit their buying to upgrades of existing systems or to training and support services.”
To compare weapons sales over various years, the study used figures in 2010 dollars, with amounts for previous years adjusted for inflation to give a constant financial measurement.