There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That's one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: How do we arm the other eleven?
The first and most important rule of gun-running is, never get shot with your own merchandise.
The second rule of gun-running is always ensure you have a foolproof way of getting paid, preferably in advance, preferably to an offshore account.
I don't know what was going through Vitaly's head that day. What I do know is that Vitaly broke the cardinal rule of gun-running: never pick up a gun and join the customers.
Of all the weapons in the vast Soviet arsenal nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947, more commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It's the world's most popular assault rifle, a weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple nine pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood, it doesn't break, jam, or overheat. It will shoot whether it's covered in mud or filled with sand. It's so easy even a child can use it, and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin, Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people's greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure; no one was lining up to buy their cars.
[to Yuri Orlov] You get rich by giving the poorest people on the planet the means to continue killing each other. Do you know why I do what I do? I mean, there are more prestigious assignments. Keeping track of nuclear arsenals. You'd think that more critical to world security. But it's not. No. Nine out of ten war victims today are killed with assault rifles and small arms. Like yours. Those nuclear missiles, they sit in their silos. Your AK-47, that is the real weapon of mass destruction.
Vitaly Orlov: Yuri, what the fuck do you know about guns?
Yuri Orlov: I know which end I'd rather be on.
Vitaly Orlov: What, are you thinking of opening a gun shop?
Yuri Orlov: Already more of those in America than McDonald's. Even with all the gangs around here, the margins are too low.
Vitaly Orlov: You've worked out the margins?
Yuri Orlov: I've already made the first sale. We're already in business.
Vitaly Orlov: We?
Yuri Orlov: I need a partner.
Vitaly Orlov: I don't know, Yuri- I don't know...
Yuri Orlov: Vitaly, I've tasted your borsch- you're no fucking chef! I can eat in the restaurant for free and I still don't eat there!
Vitaly Orlov: Fuck you!
Yuri Orlov: We're doing nothing with our lives! I mean- it's a shit! It's a shit!
Vitaly Orlov: It's true. But maybe doing nothing's better than doing this.
Yuri: Excuse me, Simeon Weisz? [Hands his business card to Weisz, who glances at it] A mutual friend, Eli Kurtzman, in Brighton Beach, contacted you. I have a business proposal. I thought perhaps you and I could-
Simeon Weisz: [Interrupting] I don't think you and I are in the same business. You think I just sell guns, don't you? I don't. I take sides.
Yuri: But in the Iran-Iraq War, you sold guns to both sides.
Simeon Weisz: Did you ever consider that I wanted both sides to lose? Bullets change governments far surer than votes. You're in the wrong place, my young friend; this is no place for amateurs.
[Simeon Weisz gives back Yuri's card and leaves.]
Andre Baptiste Sr.: I am not going to pay your asking price. We are not a rich people. Besides, the market is already flooded with your Kalashnikovs; do you realize in some parts of my country you can get one for the price of a chicken?
Yuri Orlov: But you can't just look at the unit of price. You forget ancillary costs. End user certificates need to be forged and notarized, shell companies set up, insurance purchased, pilots and crews hired; not to mention the bribes! You can't get a nut and bolt out of the Eastern Bloc without a bribe. There's one bribe for the nut, another for the bolt- Andy, Andy; listen to me. This is an expensive proposition.
Andre Baptiste Sr.: Andy. I am going to pay you in timber... or stone.
[Baptiste reaches out, opens his hand, and scatters a fistful of diamonds on his desk.]
Yuri Orlov: I'll take the stones; it's kinda hard to get a tree trunk into my hand luggage. I know you're planning a new offensive. If you can delay a week, I can get you armored personnel carriers. They'll greatly reduce your casualties, and give you a significant strategic advantage.
[Andre Baptiste Sr. looks at Yuri for a moment, visibly impressed.]
Andre Baptiste Sr.: You know, they call me the Lord of War. But perhaps it is you.
Yuri Orlov: It's not "Lord of War", it's "Warlord".
Andre Baptiste Sr.: Thank you, but I prefer it my way.
[Dmitri Volkov, Yuri's uncle, is a Ukrainian, formerly Soviet, two-star general commanding a force that has little to do and a great deal of surplus equipment and weapons now that the Cold War is over. Yuri is visiting Uncle Dimitri, and has convinced his uncle to show him the base's armory of AK-47 assault rifles.]
Yuri: How many Kalashnikovs do you have?
Uncle Dimitri: Forty thousand.
Yuri: [Glancing at the paper on Uncle Dimitri's clipboard] Is that a four? Doesn't look like a four to me. Looks more like a one.
Uncle Dimitri: No, it's a four.
Yuri: It's whatever we say it is, because no one else will know the difference. Ten thousand Kalashnikovs for a battalion... your stocks are badly depleted, Dimitri. You should order more from the factory.
Uncle Dimitri: Someone will work it out. What happens then?
Yuri Orlov: We'll cut them in.
[Note: 40,000 rifles is FAR too many weapons for a battalion, a military unit typically consisting of 300-800 soldiers. The number of AK-47s Uncle Dimitri has access to would fully supply a corps, a military unit composed of two or more divisions, which contain 10-20,000 soldiers each.]
[During the time when Yuri exits the illegal arms trade and goes into natural resources trading, under pressure from his wife, the President of Liberia, Andre Baptiste Sr. and his son show up unannounced at Yuri's New York City apartment. He steps out into the hallway to talk with them.]
Yuri Orlov: What the fuck are you doing here?
Andre Baptiste Sr.: We are here for peace talks at the United Nations.
Yuri Orlov: So at the same time you thought you'd drop in on your arms dealer?
Yuri Orlov: You know, I was wondering if that still is your profession. You are a hard man to get a hold of, all of a sudden. It is a shame. My son and I, we were hoping to do a little shopping while we are here in New York.
Yuri Orlov: You know they're watching you.
Andre Baptiste Sr.: Yes, I know they blame me. They blame me for everything, those hypocrites! They are on a hunt for a witch.
Yuri Orlov: Witch hunt.
Andre Baptiste Sr.: Hostilities have escalated. They are making it very difficult for me to resupply. And that requires a man... of your rare ingenuity.
Yuri Orlov: [Hesitant] I can't help you; I'm sorry.
[Yuri turns to go back inside his apartment; Andre Baptiste Sr. moves to block him. The two men stare at each other a few moments before Andre glances down at Yuri's right hand, probably noticing his marriage ring, and smiles.]
Andre Baptiste Sr.: I understand. But you should know this. Under the present circumstances, we are compelled... to be unusually generous.
[Andre Baptiste Sr. presses a large diamond into Yuri's open palm; Yuri's hand closes on the diamond, and the Liberian dictator grins, knowing Yuri is tempted.]
Andre Baptiste Jr.: [Setting a hand on Yuri's shoulder] You still haven't brought me the gun of Rambo.
Andre Baptiste Sr.: So I will see you soon. Lord of War.
Yuri Orlov: Enjoy it.
Jack Valentine: What?
Yuri Orlov: This. Tell me I'm everything you despise. That I'm the personification of evil. That I'm what- responsible for the breakdown of the fabric of society and world order. I'm a one-man genocide. Say everything you want to say to me now. Because you don't have long.
Jack Valentine: Are you crazy? Or just plain delusional? I don't think you fully appreciate the seriousness of your situation! You are gonna spend the next ten years of your life going from a cell to a courtroom before you even start serving your time!
Yuri Orlov: [Quietly] My family has disowned me. My wife and son have left me. And my brother's dead. I can assure you I appreciate the seriousness of my situation. But I promise you- I won't spend a single second in a courtroom.
Jack Valentine: [Scoffs] You are delusional.
Yuri Orlov: I like you, Jack. [Considers] Well, maybe not, but- I understand you. Let me tell you what's gonna happen. This way you can prepare yourself. Okay. Soon there's gonna be a knock on that door and you will be called outside. In the hall there will be a man who outranks you. First, he'll compliment you on the fine job you've done, that you're making the world a safer place, that you're to receive a commendation and a promotion. And then he's going to tell you that I am to be released. You're going to protest... you'll probably threaten to resign. But in the end, I will be released. The reason I'll be released is the same reason you think I'll be convicted. I do rub shoulders with some of the most vile, sadistic men calling themselves leaders today. But some of those men are the enemies of your enemies. And while the biggest arms dealer in the world is your boss, the President of the United States, who ships more merchandise in a day than I do in a year... sometimes it's embarrassing to have his fingerprints on the guns. Sometimes he needs a freelancer like me to supply forces he can't be seen supplying. So ... you call me evil. But unfortunately for you, I'm a necessary evil.
[Valentine now looks very grim, realizing Orlov is right. There is a knock at the door just as Yuri promised.]
Jack Valentine: [Getting up] I would tell you to go to Hell, but I think you're already there.