US Is Top Arms Seller to Developing World, Again


WASHINGTON – The United States maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and Britain, according to a Congressional study to be released Monday. Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers.

The global arms market is highly competitive, with manufacturing nations seeking both to increase profits and to expand political influence through weapons sales to developing nations, which reached nearly $28.8 billion in 2006.100107 01

That sales total was a slight drop from the 2005 figure of $31.8 billion, a trend explained by the strain of rising fuel prices that prompted many developing states – except those that produce oil – to choose upgrading current arsenals over buying new weapons.

The report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations,” was produced by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, and presents a number of interesting observations linking arms sales and global politics. For example, Russia has been a major supplier of weapons to Iran in past years, including a $700 million deal for surface-to-air missiles in 2005.

But anxieties over Iran’s nuclear program can be seen as having deterred Moscow from concluding significant new conventional arms deals with Iran in 2006, deals that could be viewed as overly provocative while the Security Council debates new sanctions on Iran.

At the same time, though, Russia continues to nurture an arms-trade relationship that is deeply disturbing to the Bush administration, by signing weapons deals with oil-rich Venezuela and its anti-American leader, Hugo Chávez.

The Russian agreements with Venezuela in 2006 included the sale of two dozen Su-30 fighter jets valued at more than $1 billion, along with attack and transport helicopters valued at more than $700 million.

Russia also sold Venezuela a large number of AK-series assault rifles in a deal that included a pledge to build a factory in Venezuela to produce those rifles and ammunition, together valued at more than $500 million.

“Venezuela’s populist president, Hugo Chávez, has taken a hostile approach to relations with the United States in recent years,” wrote Richard F. Grimmett, a specialist in national defense at the Congressional Research Service.

“Thus his decision to seek advanced military equipment from Russia is a matter of U.S. concern,” Mr. Grimmett wrote in the report. “Chávez appears embarked on an effort to make Venezuela an important military force in Latin America.”

Lessons from the Burmese Uprising

from the BBC

The military crackdown in Burma is a reminder that street demonstrations do not necessarily lead to success for popular uprisings.

The key factor is the destabilisation of the existing regime and if protests cannot bring that about, they become vulnerable to the kind of repression the Burmese authorities have imposed.

So far, the Burmese military has held together. The campaign for democracy in Burma still hopes for rapid success but fears that the project will be more long-term.

In our day, we have perhaps become so used to seeing pro-democracy protestors toppling authoritarian governments that the difficulties involved can be underestimated.

A handbook for overthrowing such governments would have to include the following factors:

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Health Care for children? “Too Expensive”. $200 Billion More for Iraq? “Necessary”.

President Bush has promised to veto a bipartisan plan to give 10 million children health care.

The reason? Spending on health for these kids would be “excessive.” Yet, he just put forward a plan to pour $200 billion more into Iraq.

Tell Bush to get his priorities straight and give 10 million children health care.

Manage all your social profiles with FUSER

fuser logo Another product that aims to simplify your digital lifestyle is launching today. Give Fuser access to your email and social networking accounts, and the website will organize all of the messages from those accounts in one place so you don’t have to bounce back and forth between multiple interfaces to handle them.

Not only can you view messages from all of your accounts together, you can also reply to them as with a normal webmail client. If you want to reply to a Facebook wall post, you can hit reply and either leave a note on your friend’s wall or send them a Facebook message. It’s quite surprising how much of Facebook’s functionality Fuser has been able to extract out of that social network’s website.

Beyond organizing all of your messages in one place, Fuser plays around with the social network data to add a little functionality. You can view a “leaderboard” of your social network friends to see who communicates with you most frequently. Friends are ranked according to how many times they have sent you messages or posted on your wall, and you can view rankings according to certain time periods. Nothing terribly revolutionary, but their attempts demonstrate how it is still possible to mash up Facebook data from outside of the developer platform.