[NY-Times] WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — 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.
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.
The study makes clear also that the United States has signed weapons-sales agreements with nations whose records on democracy and human rights are subject to official criticism.
The announcement of major new arms agreements with Pakistan last year renewed debate over whether the Bush administration was elevating its counterterrorism priorities above its pledge to spread democracy around the world.
Pakistan was a major recipient of American arms sales in 2006, including the $1.4 billion purchase of 36 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and $640 million in missiles and bombs. The deal included a package for $890 million in upgrades for Pakistan’s older versions of the F-16.
China plays an interesting role in the arms market, being both a purchaser of advanced air and naval weapons, from Russia, and as a supplier of less-expensive arms to developing nations.