Selling Bullets

Arms sales is a crucial dimension that is used by big powers,
such as the USA, to establish their hegemony around the world.

By Syed Zubair Ahmed | March 2020

U.S. arms sales and defence trade play a key role as a tool of both foreign policy and economic security. The policy has assumed the highest importance for the U.S. and arms sales have become an important means for it to maintain supremacy as a global arms supplier. To this end, the United States takes into consideration the political, military, economic, arms control, and human rights conditions in making decisions on providing arms to any nation. The prospects for constantly expanding U.S. market share of the global arms industry and reaping profits have amplified well beyond Cold War frontiers. This serves as a catalyst to intensifying global weapons trade, heightening the risk of conflict and instigating new wars.

Global arms trade is worth almost $100 bn a year, with the U.S. increasingly dominant in the world arms market. The United States has been among the top five largest arms sellers from 2014 to 2018. Leading arms exporting countries include Russia, France, Germany and China, representing 75% of the total volume of arms exports in 2014-18. The flow of arms surged by 87% specifically to the Middle Eastern nations for the period between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Flow of arms has seen a conspicuous reduction to all other regions.

Arms sales have overwhelmingly become, more than ever before, a crucial dimension of American foreign policy and economic considerations inevitably play a dominant role in motivating weapons trade. U.S. presidents see them as a foreign policy tool, and arms control in the developing regions of the world have risen to the top of the congressional agenda. In his first year, President Trump lined up US-Saudi Arabian weapons deal worth more than $110 billion. The Administration notified Congress of 157 sale deals worth more than $84 billion to 42 other countries across the world.

President Trump is actively engaged in increasing the number of arms deals incessantly being offered and has authorized and sharply intensified defence exports. Trump set $78 billion in major conventional weapons sales in 2018, the U.S. share representing 31 percent in the global arms market. Between 2002 and 2018, the United States has sold more than $560 billion worth of major conventional weapons to 168 nations.

It is particularly disheartening that the United States has been actively engaged and has a complete tilt in the offensive business of global arms dealings. The world is moving towards wars and unbridled arms sales which are heading towards a day of reckoning and is a determinant of the role it has played in shaping the world. Whether it hurts the moral image of a nation or the doctrine of the cold war era (1945-1989), the military threat to the West is considerably reduced. However, the real problem lies in the fact that the arms trade, prevention of an uncontrolled arms race and arms control are not being considered.

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The writer is a freelance contributor and follows national and international issues of public interest. He can be reached at

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