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RUSSIA leads in booming global arms market

One world danger is the abundance of weapons and crazies eager to use them. It is a shock to learn that Russia leads in booming global arms market. World military spending rose by six per cent last year, growing twice as fast as in 2001 to reach US$794 billion, largely as a result of the US-led war on terrorism, a respected think-tank said. Washington accounted for three quarters of the increase, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its Yearbook. Russia overtook the US as the world largest arms exporter, while China was the largest importer followed by India, locked in an arms race with impoverished nuclear rival Pakistan. But with outlays up 10 per cent year-on-year at US$336 billion, the US accounted for 43 per cent of global military expenditure in 2002, up from 36 per cent in 2001. "The rest of the world is not prepared, or cannot, follow the USA's example in increasing military expenditure," SIPRI said, noting that combined arms expenditure of the West European NATO members fell by three per cent in real terms between 2000 and 2002. "While in the USA the war on terrorism was a major factor in the huge growth in military expenditure in 2002, this was not the case in Europe." US defense budget estimates for fiscal year 2003 showed a planned increase in arms procurement of 32 per cent over the 2002-2007 period to US$78 billion this year. Total US defense spending was set to rise by just over six per cent in 2003. Russia's defense budget was flat in 2002, but looked set to increase by 7-8 per cent in real terms this year, SIPRI said. The value of Russian arms exports, on the rise since 1999, increased by more than US$1 billion to US$4.8 billion last year. With 36 per cent of global deliveries, Russia overtook the US as the world's largest supplier of arms to other countries, primarily China and India. China's military spending was estimated by SIPRI to have risen by 18 per cent in 2002 and would grow 9.6 per cent in 2003. China was the number one arms importer last year with 14 per cent of the world's total. India's arms imports increased 72 per cent in 2002, making it the second largest buyer of arms from abroad. Arms imports by Pakistan also grew considerably last year, SIPRI said. Both countries continued to produce fissile materials and to develop missiles. Pakistan, the poorer of the two, was the underdog measured by both conventional and nuclear arms, SIPRI said. (Reuters, 6/18/03)

Ronald Hilton - 6/26/03