The global arms industry continues to grow despite the pandemic and our quest for peace

Bangladesh convened the 2021 World Peace Conference in Dhaka on December 4-5. It was attended by diplomatic representatives from many countries, members of international civil society and the media.

In his speech to the audience at the closing session on December 5, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recalled Article 25 drafted by Bangabandhu in the Constitution of Bangladesh within nine months of our independence. In this regard, she drew the attention of the meeting participants to the fact that, within the framework of the foreign policy paradigm, Bangladesh has been called upon to promote international peace, security and solidarity. She also recalled Bangabandhu’s comment when he accepted the Julio Curie Medal on May 23, 1973: “I have always been with the oppressed, the exploited, the people who love peace and freedom in any part of the world. world. We want peace to reign in all parts of the globe. ” In this context, she also reiterated that “at this critical juncture of the world, I urge people to use their resources to achieve universal sustainable development without spending resources on the armed races”. She also stressed the need for a universal commitment to universal peace.

It must be admitted that such thoughts invoked at the Conference were correct and relevant, especially at a time when the whole world is ravaged by the Corona pandemic and its mutant varieties, which have resulted in millions of deaths worldwide and several. times that figure is in terms of the affected population. Over the past 21 months, we have also seen how the shortage of vaccines and suitable healthcare facilities has affected hundreds of millions of people in different parts of the world. We read reports and also saw how the pandemic affected the socio-economic and educational matrix in Asia, Latin America and Africa and fueled violence in different sub-regions of the world.

There has also been a massive impact in terms of destruction due to climate change for vulnerable populations in different parts of the world.

Therefore, it was a great disappointment to have been informed in early December of how narrow self-interest led many countries to focus more on spending within the global arms industry rather than on aid to international institutions in a context of global pandemic devastation. We must not overlook the fact that the deadly virus has ravaged hundreds and thousands of businesses and industries resulting in either losses, closures or bankruptcies. The growth of induced poverty has cast a shadow over sectors associated with health care, vaccine production and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals which are expected to reduce fear and anxiety, promote peace and constructive engagement. .

It was with such momentum that the new report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in December gained international attention. Apparently, one of the few industries to survive and thrive in 2020 has been the US-led multi-billion dollar global arms industry.

Apparently, sales of arms and military services by the industry’s top 100 companies totaled an astounding US $ 531 billion in 2020, an increase of 1.3% in real terms over the previous year. ‘last year. The arms sales of these companies in 2020 were 17% higher than in 2015, the first year for which SIPRI included data on Chinese companies. This was the sixth consecutive year of growth in arms sales by the Top 100. Interestingly, arms sales have increased in the global economy despite being hit hard by the contraction of 3.1% in the first year of the pandemic.

According to SIPRI, the United States again hosted the highest number of companies ranked in the Top 100. Together, arms sales of 41 American companies amounted to US $ 285 billion – an increase of 1 , 9% from 2019 – and accounted for 54% of total Top 100 arms sales. Some analysts in this context have also observed that the top five companies in the ranking have all been based in the United States since 2018.

Meanwhile, even as the deadlier Omicron virus threatens another lockdown, media have reported in the recent past several massive arms deals that have been agreed to by some countries that have otherwise appropriately refrained from opting out. actively demonstrate to commit to overcome the challenges created by the pandemic and also the impact of climate change.

On December 3, there was a report of a multibillion-euro French deal to sell combat aircraft and combat helicopters to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), “aimed at strengthening military cooperation with its main ally in the Persian Gulf amid their shared concerns about Iran. The UAE has been revealed to have agreed to buy 80 upgraded Rafale fighter jets in a deal which the French Defense Ministry says is worth 16 billion euros and is the largest French arms contract for export. France also announced an agreement with the United Arab Emirates for the sale of 12 combat helicopters built by Airbus. This is seen by analysts as a blow to the industry. French defense after the collapse of their earlier US $ 66 billion contract with Australia for that country to buy 12 French submarines that ultimately went to the United States.

Professor Natalie Goldring of Duke University mentioned in this regard that SIPRI data has once again demonstrated that the military-industrial complex is severely disconnected from real-world needs. Dr Goldring, who is also the UN representative of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy for conventional arms issues and the arms trade, rightly pointed out that “this disengagement between economic realities and trade world of arms is deeply troubling. Every dollar spent on arms sales is a dollar that is not available to respond to the Covid pandemic and meet basic human needs such as food, clothing and shelter. “

This approach, according to Dr Goldring, must not only be carefully considered by the current Biden administration, but also by “other arms suppliers who have the opportunity to learn from the Covid pandemic, reassess priorities and to reallocate resources to human needs “.

It seems Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, also said that arms dealers’ insatiable appetite for excessive profits has continued to lead to financial killings on the one hand. On the other hand, it leads to the murder of many people around the world – directly with guns and bombs and indirectly by siphoning away resources desperately needed for human survival. According to him, this creates pain due to deadly shortages of everything from medicine, clean water and minimal food supplies to housing and health education. As a result, multitudes of people suffer and die as powerful governments enthusiastically promote the institutionalized greed of the arms industries.

As a result of such a scenario, strategic analysts associated with the preparation of the SIPRI report noticed that the synergy between government power and military companies has turned into a global toxin that only has a downward spiral. towards homicide.

It should also be noted that the combined arms sales of the five Chinese companies, included in the Top 100, amounted to around US $ 66.8 billion in 2020, 1.5% more than in 2019. Chinese companies accounted for 13% of sales. total of the 100 best arms sales in 2020, behind US companies and ahead of UK companies, which made up the third largest share. SIPRI Senior Researcher Dr Nan Tian revealed that in recent years, Chinese arms companies have benefited from the country’s involvement in emerging technologies, military modernization programs, its military technology. cutting edge and emphasis on military-civilian fusion.

In all likelihood, such an emerging scenario of China prompted New Delhi and Moscow to sign a host of defense and also trade deals during Russian President Putin’s visit to New Delhi on December 6. It happened at a time when India was closing in on the United States – an adversary of Russia.

The meeting between Modi and Putin came hours after the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries held a strategic dialogue to discuss strengthening ties between India and Russia. The two countries then signed a host of bilateral defense agreements, including India’s purchase of more than 600,000 assault rifles from Russia. The Indian Ministry of Defense called it a “landmark” moment when there would henceforth be the replacement of a locally manufactured rifle with a modern weapon, thus ending the “long quest” for the needs of its army. India will also start receiving S-400 missiles from Russia (to build its S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile defense system against China) from this month due to a 5-month deal. 5 billion US dollars.

However, some observers noted that the supply of S-400 systems resulted from an agreement signed between Russia and India in 2018 but could expose the latter to sanctions from the United States, which has warned several taken over the government of New Delhi. on the case. Policy makers now note that India could face a series of financial sanctions from the United States under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which designates Russia as an adversary for its actions against it. Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 US elections and its support for Syria. . Recall that last year, the United States imposed sanctions on NATO ally Turkey for the acquisition of Russian S-400 missiles. Washington has also excluded Turkey from a program of F-35 stealth fighter jets, the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal, used by NATO members and other US allies.

We have to wait and see what is happening now between India and the United States in the complex matrix of regional dynamics.

However, these factors still underscore the fact that regional and sub-regional peace and stability in this digitalized world is best achieved through constructive engagement, regular exchange of views to resolve emerging issues and cooperation rather than investment. in arms.

Muhammad Zamir, former ambassador, is an analyst specializing in foreign affairs, the right to information and good governance.

[email protected]

Martin E. Berry