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Third world goes on arms-buying spree

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Arms sales to the third world are growing by leaps and bounds. While many third-world countries are groaning under burdensome debts and hefty oil import bills, arms sales to the developing countries are doubling every five years, according to the 1982 statistics of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Developing countries involved in most of the 135 local conflicts that have broken out since the end of World War II are now purchasing tanks, jet fighters, missiles, and other sophisticated arms at more than twice the rate of the developed world.

The US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in Washington puts the military expenditures of third-world countries in 1980 at $133 billion. That's about 22 percent of all arms expenditure in the world. Military analyst Ruth Leger Sivard puts the 1980 third-world figure at $117 billion in her publication World Military and Social Expenditures for 1982.

Rapid militarization of the third world is responsible for a sharp rise in military personnel in the developing countries, including China. The number of military troops, officers, and technicians has increased from 12.3 million in 1975 to 15.1 million in 1980. By contrast, the number of personnel in uniform in the developed world - including both NATO and Warsaw Pact countries - went down slightly from 9.55 million in 1975 to 9.54 million in 1980, according to the Sivard analysis.

London's International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that for 1982- 83 the two superpowers - the United States and the Soviet Union - have total armed forces of 2,117,000 and 3,705,000 respectively. In addition, the Institute indicates that the Soviet Union has some 560,000 border guard, internal security , railroad, and construction troops.

For both the US and the Soviet Union, which are running a neck-and-neck race to arm the developing countries, arms sales to the third world have overtaken economic assistance as a major instrument of foreign policy.


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