Saying 'no' to nuclear weapons
U.S. President Barack Obama's pledge to take concrete steps towards
"a world without nuclear weapons" has garnered overwhelming support from
peace activists worldwide.
But at the same time he has given no indication of any similar
cutbacks on conventional arms sales - at least judging by rising U.S.
weapons exports this year.
"Thus far, the Obama Administration has devoted little attention to
arms sales policy," says Natalie J. Goldring, a senior fellow with
the Centre for Peace and Security Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School
of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
She says sales of major U.S. weapons systems, including fighter
aircraft, missiles, warships and battle tanks, have continued to soar.In
effect, Goldring told IPS, it seems to be "business as usual," as the
U.S. predicts unprecedented arms sales in 2009.
According to the Pentagon, U.S. government-to-government sales are
expected to exceed an estimated 40 billion dollars by the end of this
year compared with 36.4 billion dollars in 2008.
In the early 2000s, the annual average sales were in the region of
about 8.0 billion to 13 billion dollars. But in the first half of this
year alone, total U.S. weapons sales have hit the 27 billion dollar mark
- and are rising.
The projected sales are mostly to U.S. allies, including Egypt,
Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, Bahrain,
Jordan, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among
others."That's good news for weapons contractors, who have historically
tried to sell weapons to counteract possible cuts in the military
budget," Goldring said."But its bad news for those of us who were hoping
that the Obama Administration would re-evaluate U.S. arms transfer
policy," she added.Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher in the Arms
Transfer Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute (SIPRI), one of the world's leading think tanks, says the data
given by the Pentagon is slightly unclear.He said he was not sure if the
40 billion dollar figure refers to real sales or only
proposed/requested/possible sales for 2009.However, having said that,
U.S. exports are clearly showing an upward trend, for which there are
several reasons, he added.
"Probably the most important is that there are now less producers of
advanced larger weaponry than 10-20 years ago, which means that buyers
have less options to choose from," Wezeman told IPS.