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Yugoslavia-Arms Sales

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Yugoslavia Index

In 1990 Yugoslavia was among a small group of poorer countries with industrial economies actively developing arms export industries. In the international arms market, competition from larger countries was formidable. A civilian government organization, the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement, managed foreign sales programs. In the late 1980s, arms exports averaged over US$400 million per year, exceeding US$500 million per year twice between 1977 and 1987. However, the amount fluctuated by as much as 40 percent from year to year. Yugoslavia sold almost US$2 billion worth of weapons to Iraq in its war with Iran during the 1980s. In that decade, Yugoslav arms sales exceeded those of Warsaw Pact countries Hungary, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Bulgaria, NATO members Belgium and the Netherlands, and neutral countries Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland. They were less than those of Warsaw Pact countries Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania and NATO countries Spain and Italy. Arms accounted for an average of 4 percent of total Yugoslav exports annually and as much as 6 or 7 percent in some years. In all, Yugoslav arms went to sixty-seven countries in 1990, but the Middle East and North Africa were the prime markets. Many top customer countries were members of the Nonaligned Movement. Among other weapons and equipment, Yugoslavia exported ammunition, antiarmor and antitank weapons systems, frigates, missile boats, and Mala swimmer delivery vehicles. A proposed expansion for the 1990s was to include foreign sale of the Orao ground attack fighter and the Partisan helicopter.

In the 1980s, Yugoslav weapons sales to troubled regions of the world became an important ethical issue for many citizens, especially in Slovenia. They objected to the lack of Federal Assembly oversight and public information about the country's arms industries and their dealings abroad. In the early 1980s, Yugoslavia apparently helped a Swedish firm avoid Sweden's strict arms export laws. It posed as the ultimate recipient of Bofors 40mm L/70 antiaircraft guns and artillery pieces that were subsequently reexported to Libya and Iraq. The incident revealed the extent of Yugoslav involvement in the international arms market. In 1988 the situation became a cause célèbre in Slovenia when the Slovenes who had revealed Yugoslavia's role were arrested and tried for divulging military secrets.

Data as of December 1990

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