Syndicate content Link to our RSS feed / Link to our podcast feed

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CRS: U.S. is now Latin America's #3 arms supplier

A Sukhoi fighter plane, one of Venezuela's recent arms purchases from Russia.

On September 10 the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of the U.S. Congress, released its annual report on arms transfers to the developing world This report is rather unique: relying on U.S. intelligence data, it estimates arms sales from all suppliers worldwide, combining the United States and other countries.

Entitled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations” (PDF), it is often referred to as the “Grimmett Report” after its author, CRS researcher Richard Grimmett. The latest report covers arms transfers from 2002 to 2009.

Due to the global economic crisis, the report found a small drop in arms-purchase agreements to developing countries in 2009. The United States and Russia, however, continue to dominate the market.

The value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 2009 was $45.1 billion, a decrease from the $48.8 billion total in 2008. … Recently, from 2006-2009, the United States and Russia have dominated the arms market in the developing world, with both nations either ranking first or second for all four years in terms of the value of arms transfer agreements. From 2006-2009, the United States made $68.7 billion of these agreements, or 36.7% of them. During this same period, Russia made $42.4 billion, 23.8% of all such agreements, expressed in constant 2009 dollars. Collectively, the United States and Russia made 62.4% of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations during this four year period.

Latin America’s arms purchases lag behind those of developing countries in Asia and the Near East. The report, however, finds a very sharp growth in Latin American countries’ agreements to buy new weapons. Comparing the last two four-year periods (2002-2005 and 2006-2009), CRS documents a fourfold increase.

Regional Arms Transfer Agreements by Supplier, 2002-2009
(Millions of current U.S. dollars)

The table shows 80% growth in U.S. arms sales agreements to Latin America between these four-year periods. But the country that contributed most heavily to the increase is Russia, which was by far Latin America's greatest weapons supplier between 2006 and 2009. Russian arms transfer agreements to Latin America increased by 1,750 percent between 2002-2005 and 2006-2009.

During the 2006-2009 period, the United States in fact drops to third place among Latin America's top arms suppliers. Russia sold the region 46.78% of its weapons, France captured 26.55% of the market, and the United States accounted for 10.23% of the region's arms purchases. This is down from a 23.65% market share in 2002-2005.

Latin America, in fact, is now France's largest regional market for weapons in the developing world: fully 44.06 percent of France's arms sales agreements to developing countries in the 2006-2009 period went to Latin America, compared to 33.57% to the Near East and 22.38% to Asia. While 27.41% of Russia's developing-country arms sales went to Latin America, it sold still more to Asia and the Near East. The United States, by contrast, makes only 3.64% of its developing-country arms sales to Latin America.

Who in Latin America is buying these Russian and French weapons? Mainly Venezuela and Brazil, the only Latin American countries on the Grimmett report's list of the developing world's top ten arms-buyers between 2002 and 2009. Venezuela is fifth in the world with US$12.7 billion worth of weapons purchase agreements during those eight years; Brazil is ninth with US$8.6 billion.

Looking just at 2009, though, yields a remarkable result: Brazil and Venezuela are number one and two in the entire developing world.

Latin America's predominance on the 2009 list may be temporary; the global economic crisis did not hit the region as badly as it did most others. Nonetheless, the world's arms suppliers are clearly pursuing the Latin American market more aggressively -- and the United States is no longer the supplier of choice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just the Facts Podcast: Recent arms transfers

Adam reviews recent arms sales from Brazil, Europe, Israel and the United States to several countries throughout the region.

The "Just the Facts" podcast is available here and on iTunes. Thank you for listening.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Robert Gates on the Growing Presence of Russia and Iran in Latin America

Recently, the growing presence of Russia and Iran in Latin America - especially in left-wing governments such as Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia - has elicited some concern in the United States. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave his opinion on Russia and Iran's role in Latin America at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on challenges the Defense Department faces.

Below are excerpts of Secretary Gates' answer to Senator Mel Martinez's question on the subject from the Voice of America article "Gates warns of Iranian influence in Latin America" by Julia Ritchey.

In response to the recent visit of Russian warships to Venezuela, Gates said:

"At 40 dollar oil the Russian navy does not bother me very much. This is the first time they've had an out of area exercise in a decade or so; it's important for us to keep perspective about their capabilities"

"I felt that our best response to the Russian shit visits to Venezuela was nonchalance. In fact, if it hadn't been for the events in Georgia in August, I would've tried to persuade the president to invite the Russian ships to pay a port call in Miami, because I think they would've had a lot better time than they did in Caracas."

In terms of Iran, however, Gates showed more concern:

"I'm concerned about the level of, frankly, subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly in South America and Central America. They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries."

To track Iran and Russia's influence in the region, news articles from the past year can be read here, for Iran, and here, for Russia.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Russia strengthens ties with Latin America

Over the past month, the U.S. and regional press has been paying closer attention to Russia's relations with such Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and even Colombia.

In September, Russian Vice-Prime Minister Igor Sechin traveled to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba to meet with his counterparts in each country to discuss the potential increase in economic, military, and political cooperation between each country and Russia. In September, two Russian T-160 strategic bombers visited Venezuela for a joint military exercise and a Russian navy squadron is currently en route to the Caribbean for joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy. Russia also has begun preliminary discussions with Cuba to help the country develop its own space center, has announced it will replace the Nicaraguan army's aging weaponry, and has started talks with Venezuela about developing a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Bolivian President Evo Morales recently announced that he will seek Russia's aid for the country's counternarcotics program, and Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos even traveled to Russia to discuss defense and counternarcotics cooperation.

Below are links to media coverage from the past month about Russia's renewed interest in Latin America. With the exception of the Venezuelan-Russian military exercise, U.S. officials have sought to downplay this interest in their public statements. It is apparent, however, that the U.S. government is watching these developments closely.


The Guardian: The cold war comes to the Caribbean

Front Page Magazine: Chávez's dangerous liaisons

Semana (Colombia): Calentando la guerra fria: Heating up the cold war

New Statesman: Cuban missile crisis II?


El Universal (Venezuela): Presidente Dmitri Medvedev visitará Venezuela en noviembre: President Dimitri Medvedev will visit Venezuela in November

AP: Russia: Arms sales to Venezuela are defensive

AFP: Cooperación nuclear entre Moscu y Caracas desata la pol?©mica: Nuclear cooperation between Moscow and Caracas unleashes controversy

AP: Venezuela to build nuclear technology with Russia

New York Times: Russia loans Venezuela $1 billion for military

Reuters: Putin offers nuclear energy help to Chávez

BBC: Russia and Venezuela boost ties

AP: Putin, Chávez discuss ways to constrain U.S. power

EFE: Hablan Chávez y Medvedev de cooperación economía y militar: Chávez and Medvedev discuss economic and military cooperation

AP: Crece alianza Venezuela-Rusia: Venezuelan-Russian alliance grows

New York Times: Russia and Venezuela confirm joint military exercises


AP: Russia to modernize Nicaraguan military's arsenal

El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua): Condoleezza despectiva con Ortega: Condoleezza derogatory toward Ortega

El Nuevo Diario: Viceprimer ministro de Rusia visitará este miercoles Nicaragua: Russian Vice-Prime Minister to visit Nicaragua on Wednesday


Reuters: Russia to help Cuba build space center


AP: Ambassador: Russia looking to boost Bolivia ties

BBC Mundo: Bolivia y Rusia, nuevos aliados: Bolivia and Russia, new allies

La Prensa (Panama): Bolivia busca apoyo de Rusia: Bolivia looks for Russian support


El Espectador (Colombia):Moscu propone a Colombia combatir el creciente trafico de cocaína: Moscow makes a proposal to Colombia to combat the rise in narcotrafficking

El Tiempo (Colombia): Fortalecer cooperacion de seguridad, objetivo de viaje del Ministro de Defensa a Rusia: Strengthening security cooperation, objective of the Defense Minister's trip to Russia