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Russian arms sales soar on domestic spending
by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP) Dec 14, 2014

US Congress passes $584 billion defense bill
Washington (AFP) Dec 12, 2014 - The US Congress adopted a massive US defense spending bill for 2015 Friday which includes emergency funding for military operations against Islamic jihadists in Iraq and Syria, as requested by President Barack Obama.

The legislation passed 89 votes to 11 in the Senate one week after it sailed through the House. It outlines $584.2 billion in federal military spending for fiscal year 2015, which began on October 1.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was a culmination of months of negotiations. It extends training and equipping for moderate Syrian rebels, a program that had been authorized to last only until December 11, using existing Pentagon money.

It also includes Obama's $5 billion request for funds to battle the Islamic State extremist group, including $3.4 billion for deployment of US forces as part of operation "Inherent Resolve," and $1.6 billion for a program to equip and train Iraqi Kurdish forces for two years.

The authorization includes $63.7 billion for overseas operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

"This bill includes a pay raise for members of the Armed Services, it enhances our efforts to keep our warfighters safe on the battlefield, and it authorizes the resources needed to responsibly conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.

Obama's request for $520 million for the State Department's humanitarian and diplomatic efforts was also included.

But despite opposition from Obama, the bill extends restrictions on closing the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A ban on transferring detainees to the United States, in force since 2011, was renewed.

Republicans fear the detainees might be freed by a judge and thus constitute a threat to national security.

Thirteen prisoners have been sent to other countries this year, and 142 men remain in the prison.

Among the bill's hundreds of provisions, the measure provides for a one percent pay raise for uniformed personnel, expands sexual assault prevention and response provisions, and requires the military to provide annual mental health screenings for servicemembers.

It also protects the fleet of A-10 close-air support aircraft, a measure for which Senator John McCain lobbied hard.

The US Air Force had proposed retiring more than 100 A-10s, but the NDAA would prevent any such retirements in 2015.

Defense spending accounts for just over half of the US government's budget for so-called discretionary spending, which excludes social welfare.

Sales by Russian arms manufacturers continue to expand thanks to Moscow's investments despite a downturn in global defence spending, a Stockholm-based think-tank said Monday.

"The remarkable increases in Russian companies' arms sales in both 2012 and 2013 are in large part due to uninterrupted investments in military procurement by the Russian government during the 2000s," said Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Sales by Russian-based arms firms grew by 20 percent in 2013, according to SIPRI.

However, figures for the 100 biggest arms-dealing nations excluding China declined for the third year in a row, with a two-percent drop in sales in 2013 to $402 billion (322 billion euros).

SIPRI's report does not include China due to a lack of reliable data. China's companies supply a military that enjoys the world's second-biggest budget.

The Russian company with the biggest increase in sales in 2013 was Tactical Missiles Corporation, which registered a 118-percent hike, followed by Almaz-Antey, with a 34 percent increase.

Almaz-Antey is now the 12th-largest arms manufacturer in the world, getting closer to the top 10, "which has been exclusively populated by arms producers from the US or Western Europe since the end of the Cold War," SIPRI said.

The think-tank mentioned the withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq as one of the main reasons for a 4.5-percent decline in arms sales by US companies.

- Western firms still lead -

Despite the decrease, the US still dominates the list with six companies in the top 10.

US group Lockheed Martin is number one, with sales of $35.5 billion in 2013, followed by fellow-US firm Boeing.

As for the buyers, world military expenditure fell in 2013 by 1.9 percent, mostly dragged down by cuts in the United States and other Western countries, SIPRI said in a previous report published in April.

Russia was the third-largest spender in defence after the US and China and has more than doubled its military expenditure since 2004, according to SIPRI's April report.

Russia's increasing assertiveness in neighbouring regions, including the annexation of Crimea and repeated airspace violations in Europe, has become a major concern for Western countries.

Pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine have been fighting Ukrainian forces since April in a war which has claimed more than 4,000 lives and driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement but openly gives political backing to the self-declared separatist statelets in the east.

SIPRI was created in 1966 and is partly financed by the Swedish state. It specialises in research on conflicts, weapons, arms control and disarmament.

The think-tank defines arms sales as "sales of military goods and services to military customers including both sales for domestic procurement and sales for export."

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US House passes $584 bn defense bill, Senate vote due
Washington (AFP) Dec 04, 2014
The House of Representatives adopted an annual US defense spending bill Thursday which includes emergency funding for military operations against Islamic jihadists in Iraq and Syria, as requested by President Barack Obama. The Senate still must pass the legislation - outlining $584.2 billion in federal military spending for fiscal year 2015, which began on October 1 - before Congress adjou ... read more

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