Global arms industry thrives amid global pandemic devastation

  • by Thalif Deen (The United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

But one of the few industries to survive and thrive in 2020 was the US-led multi-billion dollar global arms industry.

A new report released on December 6 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that sales of arms and military services by the industry’s 100 largest companies totaled $ 531 billion in 2020, an increase 1.3% in real terms compared to the previous year.

The arms sales of the top 100 arms companies in 2020 were 17% higher than in 2015, the first year for which SIPRI included data on Chinese companies. This is the sixth consecutive year of growth in arms sales by the Top 100.

Arms sales rose even as the global economy contracted 3.1% in the pandemic’s first year.

According to SIPRI, the United States once again hosted the highest number of companies ranked in the Top 100.

Combined, arms sales of 41 U.S. companies amounted to $ 285 billion, an increase of 1.9% from 2019 and accounted for 54% of total Top 100 arms sales.

As of 2018, the top five companies in the ranking are all based in the United States.

“The giants of the (American) industry were largely protected by the government’s sustained demand for military goods and services,” said Alexandra Marksteiner, researcher in the military expenditure and weapons production program at SIPRI.

“In much of the world, military spending has increased and some governments have even accelerated payments to the arms industry in order to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. “

Nonetheless, SIPRI said, operating in the military market does not guarantee immunity to the effects of the pandemic.

French arms maker Thales, for example, attributed a 5.8% drop in arms sales to disruptions induced by the lockdown in the spring of 2020. Some companies have also reported supply chain disruptions and disruptions. delays in delivery.

Meanwhile, even as the deadlier Omicron virus threatens another lockdown, the Associated Press (AP) on December 3 announced a multibillion-euro French deal to sell fighter jets and aircraft. combat helicopters in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), “aimed at strengthening the military cooperation with its main ally in the Persian Gulf amid their common concerns over Iran.”

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to buy 80 upgraded Rafale fighter jets in a deal which the French Defense Ministry says is worth 16 billion euros ($ 18 billion) and represents the largest contract of French weapons for export. He also announced an agreement with the United Arab Emirates for the sale of 12 combat helicopters built by Airbus.

AP said the arms deal was a blow to the French defense industry after a $ 66 billion contract collapsed for Australia buys 12 French submarines who eventually went to the United States. But the agreements have been criticized by human rights groups concerned about the UAE’s involvement in the years-long war in Yemen.

The UAE’s contracts were signed during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the country on the first leg of a two-day visit to the Persian Gulf. France and the Gulf countries have long been concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and influence in the region, especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, according to AP.

Dr Natalie Goldring, visiting professor of practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, told IPS that SIPRI data once again demonstrates that the military-industrial complex is gravely disconnected from real-world needs . Even as the global economy suffered from the effects of the global covid pandemic in 2020, global arms sales were increasing. “This disconnect between economic realities and the global arms trade is deeply disturbing. Every dollar spent on arms sales is a dollar that is unavailable to respond to the covid pandemic and meet basic human needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. “Unfortunately, these statistics are not surprising. What we are seeing is business as usual. said Dr Goldring, who is also the UN representative of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy for issues relating to conventional arms and the arms trade. “While this data is for 2020, there is little evidence that the Biden administration is changing these models. During the election campaign, for example, candidate Biden said his administration would take Saudi Arabia’s ongoing human rights violations seriously.

But the reality, Dr Goldring said, the Biden administration continues to ignore these abuses and offers to transfer weapons that will allow Saudi Arabia to perpetuate its systematic patterns of abuse. The Biden administration has also characterized the proposed arms sales as defensive in nature, even when the guns have both defensive and offensive capabilities. “The United States and other arms suppliers have the opportunity to learn from the Covid pandemic, reassess priorities and reallocate resources to human needs. We cannot afford to continue as usual, ”she said.

According to the SIPRI report, the US arms industry is experiencing a wave of mergers and acquisitions. To broaden their product portfolios and thereby gain a competitive advantage in competitive bidding, many large US armaments companies choose to merge or acquire promising companies.

“This trend is particularly pronounced in the space industry,” said Marksteiner. “Northrop Grumman and KBR are among the many companies that have acquired high value space technology companies in recent years. “

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS that arms dealers’ insatiable appetite for inflated profits has continued to translate into financial killings while literally killing scores of people around the world. – directly with weapons and bombs and indirectly by siphoning off desperately needed resources for human survival.

So many people around the world, he said, are suffering enormously due to deadly shortages of everything from medicines, clean water and minimal food supplies to housing and health education. And scores of people suffer and die as powerful governments greedily serve the institutionalized greed of the arms industries, said Solomon, who is also a director,

“The fact that the United States has continued to lead the way in taking advantage of the technological instruments of massacre is a shameful and permanent crime against humanity,” he added.

The synergy between government power and military enterprises is a global toxin that embodies a downward spiral. Any year it would have been a colossal betrayal of human decency. In a year that brought the world to the emergence of the Covid pandemic, this record is nothing less than systemic mass homicide, he argued. “The fact that the United States is responsible for more than half of the world’s total arms sales is a deep accusation of the role of the US government on this planet. One way or another, any government of a nation engaged in massive arms exports is a partner in this activity. The United States and other countries engaged in the large-scale export of arms should be vehemently and relentlessly condemned, ”he said.

Meanwhile, the combined arms sales of the five Chinese companies, included in the Top 100, amounted to around $ 66.8 billion in 2020, 1.5% more than in 2019. Chinese companies accounted for 13% of total Top 100 arms sales in 2020, behind US companies and ahead of UK companies, which made up the third largest share.

“In recent years, Chinese arms companies have benefited from the country’s military modernization programs and are focusing on military-civilian fusion,” said Dr Nan Tian, ​​senior researcher at SIPRI. “They have become one of the most advanced producers of military technology in the world.” NORINCO, for example, has co-developed the BeiDou military-civilian navigation satellite system and deepened its involvement in emerging technologies.

The Chinese were followed by European arms companies, French, German and Russian companies, all in the top 100.

Thalif Deen is a former Director of Foreign Military Markets at Defense Marketing Services; Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; Middle East / Africa military writer at Jane’s Information Group; and a former UN correspondent for Jane’s Defense Weekly, London.

Follow IPS News UN Bureau on Instagram

© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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