New Internationalist

Staying in the Race

Issue 088

Supplies of missiles, aircraft, armoured vehicles and warships to Third World countries have been increasing steadily over the last ten years. Today the Third World accounts for 70 per cent of the global arms trade. The biggest consumers are the Middle East (47%), the Far East (17%) and sub-Saharan Africa (12%)

This increase - which had accelerated to a rate of 25 per cent per annum by 1979 - puts a considerable strain on the budgets of recipient countries.

Some Third World governments have now established their own arms industries. Notable among these are Israel, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and India. There are good reasons for aspiring to this type of self-sufficiency. Such countries want to maintain a guaranteed supply of weapons regardless of the sympathies of the super-powers. For those prepared to risk dependence, the choice of patron is limited.

Issues raised by the international trade in conventional arms - estimated at $20 billion per year at current prices - have been discussed periodically in the United Nations. But control measures have yet to be successfully negotiated. Supplier countries want to maintain their markets. And many Third World countries are suspicious of proposals for limiting the inter­national flow of arms. They see such proposals as attempts to keep them out of a race in which the super-powers continue to run.

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