World Arms Sales

May 7, 1976

Report Outline
Upsurge of Arms Sales Abroad
Heritage of Munitions Merchants
New Controversies in Arms Trade
Special Focus

Upsurge of Arms Sales Abroad

Debate Over Wisdom of Weapons Transfers

Every nation wants arms. Nearly all of the world's countries have some kind of military forces, and most are trying constantly to expand and improve them. The United States, the Soviet Union and other major nations manufacture and maintain their own vast arsenals. But small or poor nations must obtain their armaments from others—primarily from the large, industrial nations that produce and sell weapons. The international trade in arms has become one of the world's fastest-growing global businesses in recent years. But today there is rising concern about the sheer volume of the world arms trade, and an intensifying debate over what can or should be done to limit or control the worldwide traffic in armaments.

It is a complex debate, with many thorny questions and few easy answers. It gives rise to questions such as these: Does every nation have a sovereign right to arm and defend itself? Is it wise or moral for strong nations to arm weak nations? Do military forces help to preserve the peace or tend to trigger wars? Should arms be sold to both sides in areas of conflict? Who should decide how much weaponry is sufficient—buyers or suppliers? Do arms sales win friends and allies, or will the purchased weapons someday be used against their makers or their makers' allies? If one industrial nation stops selling arms, will other developed nations step in to meet the demand?

These are questions that clearly nag the leaders of the principal arms-exporting nations—the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Britain, Czechoslovakia, China, Poland, Canada and West Germany (see box, p. 330)—as well as the Third World of Asian, African and Latin American nations that have become the principal arms importers. The questions must have occurred to leaders of the rapidly developing nations that already have or soon will have the capacity to export arms—Israel, Brazil, India, South Africa, Argentina, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea and Jordan, among others.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Arms Sales and Trafficking
Jun. 19, 2012  Small Arms Trade
Dec. 09, 1994  Arms Sales
Apr. 17, 1987  Third World Arms Industries
May 04, 1979  America's Arms Sales
May 07, 1976  World Arms Sales
Sep. 02, 1970  International Arms Sales
Apr. 28, 1965  Traffic in Arms
Sep. 09, 1936  Government Manufacture of Munitions
May 11, 1933  Arms Embargoes and the Traffic in Munitions
Apr. 27, 1925  Conference for Control of the International Traffic in Arms
Arms Control and Disarmament
Exports and Imports