Cohesive examination of arms sales analysis

cohesive examination of arms sales during and after the cold war. The writer explores events leading to the increase in arms sales and provides an argument that the dismantling of the Soviet Union launched an arms sales increase. There were five sources used to complete this paper.

The collapse of the Soviet Union rocked the world. The entire industrialized society tuned in to watch the dismantling of what it believed to be the stronghold on communism and many of the world’s problems. Little did society realize that the dismantling of the U.S.S.R. would also trigger issues that would create concerns. One of the biggest surprises that came out of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union was the increase in worldwide arms sales. While most of the world viewed the dismantling and rebuilding process of the Soviet Union to be in keeping with steps towards world peace evidence has shown that since the collapse of the Soviet Union arms sale throughout the world have increased dramatically.

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If the Cold War is a global museum piece, a logical assumption might be that the arms race, the frenzied and extravagantly expensive competition that was its fuel, has also fallen into disuse, stashed away in the geopolitical attic. But new battles are brewing over defense spending and arms sales. The arms race has not been mothballed, just altered. Without a major competitor, the United States is in a race essentially with itself to keep developing new weapons systems and to provide weapons and munitions to the world (Roberts, 1999).”

In addition groups are calling attention to the post Cold War part that America is playing in the arms race as the number one arms exporter in the world.

It was in the early 1990’s that the official end to the four-decade Cold War was realized, however, governments around the world found there was a tremendous amount of national funding in other countries for the purchase of arms from those nations with a surplus who were willing to sell.

It is that continuing Cold War spending pace that inspired more than 450 business and former military leaders to launch a campaign seeking deep reductions in the military budget and sharp increases in the level of spending on education and other children’s issues (Roberts, 1999).”

The end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union saw an explosion of arms sales around the world. The peak season enjoyed sales of $85 billion in 1987 but then a decline began that shrank the arms sale business by three fifths of its former size, lucrative-ness and strength (Whitelaw, 1997).

Toward the end of the 1990’s however, the tensions in the Middle East helped to contribute to another jump in sales and 1997 saw an increased profit of eight percent.

Saudi Arabia was the biggest spender, laying out $9 billion, nearly three times more than the next largest importer, Egypt. And Asia, for the first time, bought more arms than Western Europe, where defense spending is down. The United States, boosted by combat aircraft sales, commands 43% of the market, having gained from the dismantling of much of the former Soviet arms industry (Whitelaw, 1997). ”

When the Persian Gulf War ended many nations including the U.S. discussed the idea of curbing arms sales on a global level. In a manner not unlike the discussions about nuclear arms races and agreements to slow that down, several countries believed that the arms sales increase was not going to come to any positive end if it was not addressed. However, as soon as the agreements were reached Congress was asked to authorize and subsidize an arms sale increase. Following the Soviet Union collapse America’s arms sales to the Middle East continued to increase in value and numbers for several years, even against public demand that it be halted or at least slowed.

The United States also presented a proposal that allowed a guarantee of $1 billion from commercial bank loans to be granted to other nations wishing to purchase arms from the U.S. manufacturers (Increase, 1991).

The reasoning behind the proposal was that arms manufacturers needed backing as the Pentagon cutbacks in recent years were causing manufacturers financial hardships. The rationale to selling to other nations was that if American manufacturers didn’t do it they would get them somewhere else anyway, therefore they may as well get in on the action and enjoy a profit from it (Increase, 1991).

This same argument has been used for years to justify the sale of U.S. arms abroad. But the reasoning may not be as valid today as it used to be. For one thing, the end of the Cold War means that the Soviet Union will not be competing as fiercely with Washington to buy influence in foreign nations. More important, the bad experience that Iraq had with Soviet-made arms in the gulf war has made other nations more eager to buy U.S. arms rather than a substitute (Increase, 1991). ”

At the time the decision was made to allow U.S. manufacturers to sell to foreign nations it was also decided that the sales could only be to friendly nations. The largest issue with such a decision is that history has demonstrated friendly nations of today, are often warring nations of tomorrow.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there have been many arguments, treaties and agreements with regard to arms sales around the world.

The Wassenaar Arrangement, established in 1996, replaced NATO’s Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) (Lewis, 3005). Created in the 1950s, COCOM blocked technology transfers to the Soviet Union and its allies. It had three lists of controlled goods — arms, industrial equipment, and “atomic” technologies — that members “embargoed” to the Soviets (Lewis, 3005). To ensure that an export of a listed item was consistent with the embargo, COCOM procedures required the review and consent of all members (Lewis, 3005). This gave the United States extraterritorial authority to “veto” exports to the Soviet bloc (Lewis, 3005).”

As tensions in the Middle East continued to grow, issues arose about Iraq’s purchase of arms from foreign factions including the United States. At one point it was reported that Iraq had spent more than $40 billion in purchasing foreign arms, with the bulk of those sales coming out of the American “mall” (Lewis, 3005).

The Bush administration put forward its plan for arms transfer restraint shortly after the end of the Persian Gulf War. The arms transfer component of the Middle East initiative became, at the United Kingdom’s suggestion, a proposal for a regime with global scope to prevent destabilizing arms transfers. The core would be a commitment by the five governments to observe a common set of guidelines for major weapons systems. The guidelines emphasized avoiding arms transfers that could destabilize a region, put human rights at risk, or provide inappropriately advanced technology. These principles became a precedent for the UN Register of Conventional Arms, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the European Code of Conduct (Lewis, 3005).”

None of these measures had been necessary before the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

At the time the agreement was formed, Russia wanted to become a member of the agreement but was stalled for two years because of its refusal to promise not to sell any arms to Iran (Lewis, 3005).

As the arms sales market continued to grow following the collapse of the Soviet Union, different nations jockeyed for first position in the profit margin available. In 2005 the United States came out the top contender with selling more than half of the weapons sold to developing nations coming from the United States surplus.

It was the highest level of recorded arms sales in the previous eight years.

Arms control specialists said the figures underscore how the largely unchecked arms trade to the developing world has become a major staple of the American weapons industry, even though introducing many of the weapons risks fueling conflicts rather than aiding long-term U.S. interests.”

We are at a point in history where many of these sales are not essential for the self-defense of these countries and the arms being sold continue to fuel conflicts and tensions in unstable areas,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association in Washington. “It doesn’t make much sense over the long-term (Bender, 2006).”

In 2005 the United States also signed agreements for the sale of more than $6 billion attack helicopters, arms and missiles to several nations including India, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

There are already contracts for not yet manufactured weapons that total more than $45 billion according to government records.

A recent report indicated that the reason for such sales out of the U.S. And other nations was to prevent wars and create allies. The report said:

For decades, during the height of the Cold War, providing conventional weapons to friendly states was an instrument of foreign policy utilized by the United States and its allies,” according to the report, titled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations (Bender, 2006).”

But evidence indicates the true motive for the increased arms sales since the dismantling of the former Soviet Union is not about peacekeeping at all but about the bottom dollar.

According to the annual assessment, the United States supplied $8.1 billion worth of weapons to developing countries in 2005 — 45.8% of the total and far more than second-ranked Russia with 15% and Britain with a little more than 13% (Bender, 2006).”

Arms sales (agreements) ranked by Supplier, 1998-2005 (in constant 2005 million U.S. Dollars and percentage of world sales).


Total Dollars

Percentage of total sales


Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations,

Report for Congress, U.S. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, October 23, 2006. (Dollar values are constant 2005 dollars)

Each country shown as follows:

developing countries industrialized countries

If you are viewing this table on another site, please see further details and context.

United out of 97,144 out of 41,600 out of 30,000 out of 17,000

United out of 14,900 out of 9,100 out of 5,600

Other out of 33,800 out of 17,300

The Executive Director of the Nonpartisan Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball has been quoted as saying the U.S. And other nations are no longer selling arms for the self-defense of the nations buying them, but instead the arms are being sold for selfish reasons which will haunt the nations that sold them someday (Bender, 2006).

Another seldom discussed reason that the arms sales have seen such a dramatic increase since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the ability to control the nations doing the buying (Washburn, 1999).

One example is Turkey. The U.S. is the main arms supplier to Turkey, therefore if it doesn’t agree with something Turkey is doing it can threaten to stop selling arms to the nation or even more effective threaten to sell arms to the nation’s enemies (Washburn, 1999).

Before the dismantling of the Soviet Union the U.S. always had the upper hand with developing nations by pointing to the Soviet Union and hinting if the U.S. did not protect the developing nation the Soviet Union might take it over. The developing nation would do whatever the U.S. wanted to prevent that from happening and to keep the U.S. As a protective ally. Once the Soviet Union was dismantled it was no longer a viable threat, even to the underdeveloped nations of the world and many of the stronger nations lost that control.

Selling arms to the developing nations provides the stronger countries with that power again because they can threaten to stop the sales or to sell to the enemy if the country does not do as it is told.

Given its role as Turkey’s principal arms supplier, the United States has enormous potential leverage over Turkish behavior on critical issues such as respect for human rights and the pursuit of negotiated settlements to the 15-year civil war with the PKK and the 25-year-old division of Cyprus (Washburn, 1999).”

The arms sales between nations started out to help underdeveloped nation protect themselves from “bully nations” including the former Soviet Union. Once the threat was gone however, nations continued to sell arms to the developing nations to turn a profit and to find a new method of control. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been a dramatic increase in arms sales around the world. It is time to stop the cycle before the U.S. And other nations become the bully nations through the power of selling arms.


Bender, Brian (2006) U.S. is top purveyor on weapons sales (Accessed 3-22-07) list grow to unstable areas by Bryan Bender, Globe Staff

Lewis, James (2005) Arms Control Today. LOOKING BACK: Multilateral Arms Transfer Restraint: The Limits of Cooperation

Roberts, Tom (1999) New battles brew over defense spending, arms sales.

National Catholic Reporter

Russia revisits Cold War policy (Accessed 3-24-07)

Washburn, Jennifer (1999) Arming Repression:

U.S. Arms Sales to Turkey During the Clinton Administration

Joint Report of the World Policy Institute and the Federation of American Scientists

Whitelaw, Kevin (1997) it’s a growth business again: arms market. (arms sales increased 8% in 1996, totalling $40 billion; Saudi Arabia was the biggest buyer)(Brief Article)

U.S. News & World Report

____(1991) WHY INCREASE ARMS SALES? The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

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