Tag Archives: US

This Map Of US And Russian Arms Sales Says It All

Russia US Arms Race Graphic Final

They say the Cold War is over, but Russia and the U.S. remain the leading supplier of weapons to countries around the world and are the two biggest military powers. Lately, tensions have been pretty high, too.

The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Russia supplies many BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa.

Continue reading This Map Of US And Russian Arms Sales Says It All

Advertisements

Afghanistan’s Opium Industry Now Employs More People Than Its Military

Afghanistan Muddy Boots

Afghanistan’s opium economy provides more employment — “up to 411,000 full-time-equivalent jobs” — than even the country’s armed forces, according to a quarterly report released today by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The country’s poppy cultivation is at an all-time high, covering more than 200,000 hectares, another SIGAR report found earlier this month.

Opium and its derivatives are the country’s largest export, worth $3 billion in 2013, an increase from $2 billion in the year before.

In fact, Afghanistan’s opium production has been on a constant uptick since 2010, according to a chart included in the SIGAR report:

SIGAR Poppy Cultivation Estimates Graph

“Counternarcotics Appears To Have Fallen Off The Agenda”

Despite the rampant growth of an illicit drug economy that stokes corruption and even finances the Taliban, the concern over opium has diminished. The US and its partners seem to have given up on opium eradication as a goal in the country. As the SIGAR report notes, it isn’t even mentioned in “the declarations and communiqués from the conferences on Afghanistan reconstruction that have become a mainstay of the international effort.”

Opium cultivation is paid only “oblique reference” in the 2012 document laying out the country’s reconstruction. Indeed, nowhere in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework do the words “poppy” or “opium” appear, even as the industry plays an ever-bigger role in the life of Afghans.

Meanwhile, appropriations for the Department of Defense’s Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities Fund (or DOD CN) have plummeted since a steady climb in the aughts and a peak in 2012. Since 2002, the US has spent nearly $7.8 billion trying to tackle Afghanistan’s opium problem.

This chart shows how that effort recieved less and less US budgetary attention, at the same time opium production in the country increased:

Counter Narcotics Funding Afghanistan SIGAR

Read the entire report here.

10 facts that reveal the absurdity of Pablo Escobar’s wealth

The “king of cocaine” was the son of a poor Colombian farmer. But by the time he was 35, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Despite his humble origins, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria became the infamous leader of the Medellín cartel — responsible for 80% of the global cocaine market.

“El Patron,” as he’s often called, brought in an estimated $420 million a week in revenue, easily making him one of the wealthiest drug lords in history.

While verifying Escobar’s wealth is impossible due to the nature of drug money, figures range up to $30 billion.

1. In the mid-1980s, Escobar’s cartel brought in an estimated $420 million a week, which totals almost $22 billion a year.

1. In the mid-1980s, Escobar's cartel brought in an estimated $420 million a week, which totals almost $22 billion a year.

2. Escobar made the Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven years straight, beginning in 1987 until 1993. In 1989, he was listed as the seventh richest man in the world.

2. Escobar made the Forbes' list of international billionaires for seven years straight, beginning in 1987 until 1993. In 1989, he was listed as the seventh richest man in the world.

3. By the end of the 1980s, he supplied 80% of the world’s cocaine …

3. By the end of the 1980s, he supplied 80% of the world's cocaine ...

4. … and smuggled approximately 15 tons of cocaine into the US per day.

4. ... and smuggled approximately 15 tons of cocaine into the US per day.

Pablo Escobar with his son Juan Pablo in front of the White House in 1981.

According to journalist Ioan Grillo, the Medellín cartel smuggled most of its cocaine straight over the Florida coast.

“It was a nine-hundred-mile run from the north coast of Colombia and was simply wide-open. The Colombians and their American counterparts would airdrop loads of blow out to sea, from where it would be rushed ashore in speedboats, or even fly it right onto the Florida mainland and let it crash down in the countryside,” Grillo wrote.

5. In other words, of the Americans doing cocaine, four in five of them were snorting lines supplied by “El Patron.”

5. In other words, of the Americans doing cocaine, four in five of them were snorting lines supplied by "El Patron."

6. The “king of cocaine” factored in a $2.1 billion loss in profits each month, but that didn’t really matter.

6. The "king of cocaine" factored in a $2.1 billion loss in profits each month, but that didn't really matter.

Escobar’s immense wealth became problematic when he couldn’t launder his cash quick enough.

He resorted to stashing piles of cash in Colombian farming fields, dilapidated warehouses, and in the walls of cartel members’ homes,according to Roberto Escobar, the cartel’s chief accountant and the kingpin’s brother, in his book, “The Accountant’s Story: Inside the violent world of the Medellín cartel.”

“Pablo was earning so much that each year we would write off 10% of the money because the rats would eat it in storage or it would be damaged by water or lost,” Escobar wrote.

That would be about $2.1 billion, given how much money he was reportedly making.

Escobar simply had more money than he knew to do with, and therefore haphazardly losing money to rodents and mold wasn’t an issue.

7. And he expensed $2,500 on rubber bands each month.

7. And he expensed $2,500 on rubber bands each month.

While hiding or destroying the exorbitant amount of money was one issue, the brothers faced another much more elementary problem — neatly organizing the banknotes.

According to Roberto Escobar, the Medellín cartel spent an estimated $2,500 a month on rubber bands which were needed to hold stacks of bills together.

8. Once he started a fire with $2 million because his daughter was cold.

8. Once he started a fire with $2 million because his daughter was cold.

Pablo Escobar with his wife Maria Victoria, son Juan Pablo, and daughter Manuela Escobar.

In a 2009 interview with Don Juan magazine, Escobar’s son Juan Pablo, 38, who has since changed his name to Sebastián Marroquí­n, described what life was like on the run with the “king of cocaine.”

According to Marroquí­n, the family was living in a hideout in the Medellín mountainside when Escobar’s daughter Manuela became hypothermic.

Escobar decided to torch $2 million in crisp banknotes to keep her warm.

9. He was nicknamed “Robin Hood” after handing out cash to the poor, building housing for the homeless, constructing 70 community soccer fields, and building a zoo.

9. He was nicknamed "Robin Hood" after handing out cash to the poor, building housing for the homeless, constructing 70 community soccer fields, and building a zoo.

10. He cut a deal with Colombia to be imprisoned, but in a luxury prison he built and named “la catedral” meaning cathedral.

10. He cut a deal with Colombia to be imprisoned, but in a luxury prison he built and named "la catedral" meaning cathedral.

Pablo Escobar with his top hitman “Popeye” in “la catedral.”

In 1991, Escobar was incarcerated in his self-designed prison he named “la catedral.”

In the terms of his agreement with the Colombian government, Escobar was allowed to select who was imprisoned with him and who worked in the prison. He could also continue to run his cartel business and receive visitors.

La catedral was equipped with a soccer field, barbecue pit and patios and was nearby another compound he built separately for his family.

Also, the Colombian authorities were not allowed within 3 miles of his prison.

This map shows where the world’s 3 biggest arms exporters are sending their weapons

US Russia China Global Arms Imports Map

Click to the picture for higher resolution

The US, Russia, and China are the world’s largest arms exporters. They took the largest slices of a growing pie: The global arms trade was 16% larger in 2010-2014 than it was in 2005-2009, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

China in particular saw its share of global exports explode. It became the world’s third-largest exporter accounting for 5% of the arms trade in 2010-2014. In comparison, China sold 3% of the world’s arms in 2005-2009.

But China still lags far behind the export powerhouses of the US and Russia. Washington sold 31% of all global imports during the 2010-2014 period, while Moscow made up 27% of the global trade.

The global arms trade highlights where the US, Russia, and China hold geopolitical sway — or want to. Predictably, the NATO countries — with the exception of Russian-leaning Hungary — Mexico, and east Asian countries jittery about a rising China all purchased their arms from the US, and not the other two big exporters.

Likewise, the former Central Asian Soviet republics all purchased their arms solely from Moscow, with the curious exception of Uzbekistan.

Generally, China and Russia are more willing than the US to send weapons to countries with spotty human rights records. Angola, Iran, and Sudan all purchased weapons from both Russia and China.

China has also used its arms trade to build influence in sub-Saharan Africa, a part of the world Beijing covets for its natural resources and its growing labor and consumer marketplaces — as well as for power projection.

China sent weapons to 9 sub-Saharan countries and was the only one in the top three to send arms to South Sudan, a country whose oil industry and international standing are both threatened by an ongoing civil war.

India provides another example of the role the arms trade plays in geopolitical influence. New Delhi frequently threatens to lean closer to Russia or the US in order to incentivize arms transfers from the other country.

For instance, India is co-building its fifth-generation fighter with Russia — and at the same time, the US and India may cooperate on the construction of aircraft carriers.

During the 2010-2014 period, Asia and Oceania was a big recipient of arms imports accounting for 48% of global weapons purchases.

Germany’s finance minister is worried about China’s debt and shadow banking

Global debt increase 2007

Should we concerned about growing debt levels around the world?

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister, certainly seems to thinks so, stating overnight that “debt levels in the global economy continue to give cause for concern.”

As the chart from consultancy firm McKinsey shows, from 2007 to mid-2014, debt levels around the world ballooned by US$57 trillion to $US199 trillion, a figure that represents some 286% of current global output. In 2000 that percentage was at 246%.

Singling out China in particular, Schaeuble noted that “debt has nearly quadrupled since 2007″, adding that it’s “growth appears to be built on debt, driven by a real estate boom and shadow banks.”

China debt growth

Certainly, according to McKinsey’s research, total outstanding debt in China increased from $US7.4 trillion in 2007 to $US28.2 trillion in 2014. That figure, expressed as a percentage of GDP, equates to 282% of total output, higher than the likes of other G20 nations such as the US, Canada, Germany, South Korea and Australia.

With China slowing and expectations for further monetary and fiscal easing growing by the day, the concerns raised by Schaeuble may well amplify from here.

Here’s What 44 Countries List As The Greatest Dangers In The World

Iraqi Shi'ite

Amid rising conflicts engulfing the Middle East, most of the 44 nations surveyed in a new Pew Research Center study listed the top threat in the world as “religious and ethnic hatred.”

Nations were given the option of selecting between five dangers: nuclear weapons, pollution, AIDS and other diseases, inequality, and religious and ethnic hatred.

map danger larger

At 58%, Lebanon had the highest level of concern of any country and identified religious and ethnic hatred as the single greatest danger to the world, correlating to its diverse religious makeup of Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Lebanese Christians, Greek Orthodox, and Jews.

Meanwhile, severe battles between Hezbollah and Jabhat al-Nusra have brought war to Lebanon. Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Tunisia also shared Lebanon’s concern.

Meanwhile in the West, “the gap between the rich and the poor is increasingly considered the world’s top problem by people living in advanced economies,” the Pew Research Center says

Americans, and generally most European nations listed “inequality” as the world’s greatest danger. Spain cited this concern at a rate of 54%, the highest level of concern in this category.

global dangers survey pew research

Ukraine and Russia both named “nuclear weapons” as their highest threat, along with Japan, Pakistan, and Turkey. It is estimated that Russia —which leads the world in number of nuclear weapons — along with the US, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, possess approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons altogether.

Most African countries claimed “AIDS and other infectious diseases” as their most pressing issue in the world today.

This chart shows all of the versions of Russia’s fifth-generation fighter jet

su-50 russia

The US and Russia have been competing arms exporters since the dawn of the Cold War.

Although the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the deep-seated rivalry between the US and Russia never fully died out and is now stronger than it’s been in decades thanks the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. The same goes for the countries’ rivalry in the realm of military hardware.

The US and Russia are both producing their own fifth-generation fighters. While the US is developing the F-35 in conjunction with select worldwide partners, Russia is developing its own fifth-generation fighter, the Su-50.

And like the F-35, the Su-50 will have multiple variants. The following chart from Russian arms manufacturer Sukhoi shows the intended plan for all versions of Russia’s most advanced fighter jet.

T-50 PAK FA

The base model of the Su-50 is also known under its prototype name of the T-50 PAKFA. There have been five T-50s built so far. The plane’s final version (the Su-50) is supposed to be fully operational by 2016.

Once complete, the Su-50 will serve as a base model for future fifth-generation aircraft. Some versions of the plane are intended for export, with the bulk of them being developed for India.

The Indian version of the plane, called the Su-50E, will be similar to the Su-50 but modified according to certain demands from the Indian Air Force. Russia and India are also co-developing the Su55-FGFA, a twin-seater version of the Su-50 that will be specially designed for the Indian Air Force.

This close level of coordination between Russia and India highlights the consistently close military relations the two countries have enjoyed. India is the world’s largest arms importer, and it received 75% of all of its armaments from Moscow in 2013.

Aside from India, Russia also plans to complete variants of the Su-50 for South Korea and Iran. The South Korean version, the Su-50EK, should be ready for export by 2018 while the Iranian Su-50ES version will be ready by 2022.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: