Arms race brings a warning

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Spiraling arms spending and advancing military technology, plus the deadlock of detente, pose a major threat to global security, says the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says world military arms spending totaled over $500 billion last year.

A disturbing trend was the "qualitative" development of US and Soviet nuclear weapons. The enhanced accuracy and power of modern nuclear weapons make them "more likely to be seen as suitable for fighting rather than deterring war," the report says. The militarization of outer space also continued with the launching of 14 military satellites by the United States and 89 by the Soviet Union.

But the most marked trend of the past decade was the growth of military spending by third-world nations, which in 1980 accounted for 16 percent of the total, compared with 9 percent in 1971. Six of the eight largest third-world arms importers in the 1970s were in the Middle East.

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Institute director Frank Barnaby said the growth of the third-world market was particularly serious, since a world war was more likely to develop from a regional conflict than start with direct superpower confrontation.

If the same effort were devoted to food production or health as to the arms race, the results could be impressive for the third world, he added.

The report also notes the stalemate in international arms control negotiations, adding that the greatest disappointment in 1980 was the failure of the United Sta tes to ratify the SALT II treaty.

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