The value of military weapons sales worldwide jumped last year to the highest level since 2000, driven by arms deals with developing nations, especially India, Saudi Arabia and China, according to a new US congressional study.
The total of arms sales and weapons transfer agreements to both industrialized and developing nations was nearly US$37 billion last year, according to the study.
That total was the largest since 2000, when global arms sales reached US$42.1 billion, far above the 2003 figure of US$28.5 billion.
The US once again dominated global weapons sales, signing deals worth US$12.4 billion last year, or 33.5 percent of all contracts worldwide. But that was down from US$15.1 billion in 2003.
The share of US arms contracts specifically with developing nations was US$6.9 billion last year, or 31.6 percent of all such deals, up slightly from US$6.5 billion in 2003.
Russia was second in global arms sales, with US$6.1 billion in agreements, or 16.5 percent of all such contracts, a notable increase from its US$4.4 billion in sales in 2003. Last year, Russia signed arms transfer deals worth US$5.9 billion with the developing world, 27.1 percent of the global total, up from US$4.3 billion in 2003.
Britain was third in arms transfer agreements to the developing world, signing contracts worth US$3.2 billion, while Israel ranked fourth, with deals of US$1.2 billion. France followed with US$1 billion.
The report, "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations," is published by the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress.
The annual study, which was delivered to Congress on Monday, is considered by academic experts to be the most thorough compilation of facts and figures on global weapons sales available in the public domain.
The study uses figures in 2004 US dollars, with figures for other years adjusted to account for inflation.
The statistics in the report "illustrate how global patterns of conventional arms transfers have changed in the post-cold-war and post-Persian-Gulf-war years," Richard Grimmett, a specialist in national defense at the Congressional Research Service, wrote in the introduction to the study.
"Relationships between arms suppliers and recipients continue to evolve in response to changing political, military and economic circumstances," he said. "Nonetheless, the developing world continues to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by conventional weapons suppliers."
The study found that arms sales to developing nations last year totaled nearly US$21.8 billion, a substantial increase over the US$15.1 billion in 2003. That was 58.9 percent of all arms sales agreements worldwide for last year.
Over the last four years, China has purchased more weapons than any other nation in the developing world, signing US$10.4 billion in deals from 2001 to last year. Such statistics could be used by those in the US government who have argued against any decision by the EU to lift its arms embargo against China.
For that same four-year period, India ranked second, with US$7.9 billion in arms purchases, and Egypt was third, with US$6.5 billion in deals.
But India surpassed China in total purchases last year, agreeing to buy US$5.7 billion in arms.
Saudi Arabia was second in signing arms deals last year, with contracts valued at US$2.9 billion, and China was third, signing US$2.2 billion in contracts.