Fiscal 2018 is off to a great start for shareholders, as publicly-owned America-based weapons-manufacturing multinational corporations have received US State Department approval to participate in government-to-government arms deals for over $13.4 billion of guns, bombs, tanks, missiles, fighter planes and a host of other military gear — and the figure has nowhere to go but up.
According to a report issued last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Washington has been responsible for 34 percent of global arms sales between 2013-2017, keeping it firmly in the top spot. Russia claims the number two rank with 22 percent of global arms exports over the same period, as reported by the Intercept.
But the sharp rise in exports by the largest weapon builder on the globe denotes a new tactic by the Trump administration, as in only his first year in office the president has approved $5.7 billion more gun deliveries than did US President Barack Obama in his final year in office.
Global stock markets and shareholders alike have celebrated the spectacular cash gains being made by publicly-traded US-based weapons multinationals, including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing Aerospace, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, as the rapidly rising sales figures for machines that kill people pull US stock gains to record highs.
A recent report by the Security Assistance Monitor — a Center for International Policy program to track and analyze US military presence around the world — has observed a key difference between weapon sale requests made during the Obama and Trump administrations, however.
During the Obama administration, the report noted that aircraft dominated US sales of military hardware to foreign governments. But in Trump's first year, bombs and missiles have topped the list of hardware requests.
Colby Goodman, director of the Security Assistance Monitor and editor of the group's new report, observed that Trump's favorite customer for US weapons is Saudi Arabia.
As Riyadh continues — with the blessing of Washington — to prosecute a war in Yemen that has seen over 10,000 civilians killed alongside a devastating famine and cholera epidemic that threaten hundreds of thousands more, the Trump White House tabled close to $18 billion of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
"Signing off on missile and bomb sales to Saudi Arabia when the country was using these weapons to attack the civilian population in Yemen sent an alarming signal about the US support for human rights," said Goodman, cited by the Intercept.
Widespread starvation in Yemen has led to some 22 million people currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations, cited by RT.
SIPRI senior researcher Peter Wezeman asserted that, "Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights have led to political debate in western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales," according to Xinhuanet.com.
"Yet the US and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region," Wezenman added, "supplying over 98 percent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia."
Industry observers have noted moves by the Trump administration to speed up the arms sale approval process, as the president suggests that making and selling more guns means more US jobs.
"It's a bad deal," claimed Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, who wrote the new Security Assistance Monitor report, according to Defenseone.com.
"The decision to arm repressive regimes and support nations' acts of war has serious negative consequences for US security," stated Hartung.