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Sunday, 16 August 2009

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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 U.S.

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.

-IPS

 

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