The war between Iran and Iraq was able to continue for so many years partly due to the provision of arms from Europe and the USA. Between 1981 and 1988, Iran bought $17.5 billion worth of arms, Iraq bought $47.3 billion worth and developing nations as a whole purchased $301.4 billion worth. In 1988, the former Soviet Union sold $9.9 billion, the USA sold $9.2 billion, and France and China, each, sold $3.1 billion worth of arms to developing countries. Some of the other nations involved in arms sales include: Czechoslovakia, North Korea, Britain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Brazil.
2. Savings on arms spending in the North could represent a promising prospect for massive increases in official development assistance to the South. Yet, instead of providing examples of restraint in this area, developing countries have been spending a greater proportion of their GDP's on the armed forces than the developed countries, with the added burden that most of their arms expenditures take the form of payment in hard currencies for imported weapons. In most cases, these countries are not responding to greater defence needs as much as to the intensive campaigns of the arms exporters, along with the importers' illusion that greater quantities of arms may bring greater security and stability. The Third World as a whole spends more on weapons than it spends on education and health combined; this obviously results in lower socio-economic growth rates and in greater chances of armed conflict.
3. Developing countries are often misled into believing that increased armament stockpiles will result in a parallel increase in national security, rather than realizing that armaments lead to greater chances of conflict; and that the only benefits go to those who export arms, in general for reasons only of their own short-term interests. Some money to buy arms by countries which are impoverished is undoubtedly taken from overseas aid allocations.
4. A provision of the 1994 USA Defense Department Authorization Act provides $1 billion in loan guarantees for the export of weapons to NATO members, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Israel. Such subsidies for foreign arms are a mistake. When America subsidizes its allies, other countries subsidize sales to their own allies and weapons proliferate exponentially.
5. If arms production is a serious disorder in the present world with regard to true human needs and the employment of the means capable of satisfying those needs, the arms trade is equally to blame. Indeed, with reference to the latter it must be added that the moral judgment is even more severe. As we all know, this is a trade without frontiers capable of crossing even the barriers of the blocs. It knows how to overcome the division between East and West, and above all the one between North and South, to the point-and this is more serious-of pushing its way into the different sections which make up the southern hemisphere. We are thus confronted with a strange phenomenon: while economic aid and development plans meet with the obstacle of insuperable ideological barriers, and with tariff and trade barriers, arms of whatever origin circulate with almost total freedom all over the world. Andeveryone knows that in certain cases the capital lent by the developed world has been used in the underdeveloped world to buy weapons. (Papal Encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 30 December 1987).
2. It is unrealistic to assume that any single developing country will reduce arms spending unilaterally while its neighbours continue the arms race. In order for this to happen, there must be a mutual conviction of peaceful settlement, which is becoming increasingly unlikely as mutual trust steadily erodes.