Countries of the NATO military alliance have been ordered by President Trump to increase their spending on weapons, and the reasons for his insistence they do so are becoming clearer. It’s got nothing to do with any defense rationale, because the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, has admitted that “we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally” and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recorded in its 2018 World Report that “Russia’s military spending in 2017 was 20 per cent lower than in 2016.”
Even Radio Free Europe, the US government’s official broadcaster, acknowledged that “Russia, one of the world’s top military spenders, reduced its defense budget by 20 percent in 2016-2017 to $55.3 billion” compared, for example, to the $56.3 billion of France. As SIPRI records, “together, the European NATO members spent over 4 times more on the military in 2017 than Russia,” and Nato Watch summed it up by pointing out that the 29 US-NATO countries “collectively spent over 12 times more on the military in 2016 than Russia.”
There is demonstrably no threat whatever to any NATO country by Russia, but this is considered irrelevant in the context of US arms’ sales, which are flourishing and being encouraged to increase and multiply as a result of Congressional and Pentagon scare-mongering.
On July 12, the second and final day of the recent US-NATO pantomime gathering, Reuters reported Trump as saying that “the United States makes by far the best military equipment in the world: the best jets, the best missiles, the best guns, the best everything.” He went on “to list the top US arms makers, Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Northrop Grumman Corp by name.”
On July 11 the Nasdaq Stock Exchange listed the stock price of Lockheed Martin at $305.68. The day after Trump’s speech, it increased to $318.37.
On July 11 the Nasdaq Stock Exchange listed the stock price of Boeing at $340.50. The day after Trump’s speech, it increased to $350.79.
On July 11 the New York Stock Exchange listed the stock price of Northrop Grumman at $311.71. The day after Trump’s speech, it increased to $321.73.
To further boost this bonanza, the State Department did its best to make US arms sales even easier by enabling weapons manufacturers to avoid the well-constructed checks and balances formerly in place to ensure that at least a few legal, moral and economic constraints would be observed when various disreputable regimes anted up for American weapons.
But these regulations no longer apply, because on July 13 the State Department announced new measures to “fast-track government approval of proposals from defense and aerospace companies” which action was warmly welcomed by the President of the US Defence and Aerospace Export Council, Keith Webster, who is “looking forward to continued collaboration with the White House on initiatives that further expand international opportunities for the defense and aerospace industries.”
There was yet more boosting by Lt-General Charles Hooper, Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, who declared on July 18 that “Defense exports are good for our national security, they’re good for our foreign policy. And they’re good for our economic security.” He then proposed that his agency cut the transportation fee charged to foreign military sales clients, which would be a major stimulant for sales of “the best jets, the best missiles, the best guns” so valued by Mr Trump. Then the General went on to remind the media that “as the administration and our leadership has said, economic security is national security.” This man might go places in Trump World.
But he won’t go as far as the arms manufacturers, whose future growth and profits are assured under Trump and the Washington Deep State, which is defined as “military, intelligence and government officials who try to secretly manipulate government policy.” US weapons producers have realized, as said so presciently two thousand years ago by the Roman statesman, Cicero, that “the sinews of war are infinite money,” and their satisfaction will continue to grow in synchrony with their financial dividends.
The Voice of America joined the chorus of reportage on July 12 and observed that “with Thursday’s renewed pledge by NATO countries to meet defense spending goals, some of the biggest beneficiaries could be US weapons manufacturers, which annually already export billions of dollars worth of arms across the globe.”
Within European NATO, the biggest spenders on US arms, thus far, are Poland, Romania, Britain and Greece, and the amounts involved are colossal. Poland, whose economy is booming, has signed an agreement to buy Patriot missile systems for $4.75 billion, adding to the purchase of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles for $200 million, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, costing $250 million, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems for the same amount. Delivery of its 48 F-16 multi-role strike aircraft ($4.7 billion) began in 2006, and Warsaw has proved a loyal customer ever since. Who knows what exotic new pieces of US hardware will be ordered as a result of Mr Trump’s encouragement?
Romania, a country with only 750 kilometers of motorway (tiny Belgium has 1,700 km), has been seeking World Bank assistance for its road projects but is unlikely to benefit because it is so gravely corrupt. This has not stopped it purchasing US artillery rocket systems for $1.25 billion and Patriot missiles for a colossal $3.9 billion, following-on from construction in May 2016 of a US Aegis missile station, at Washington’s expense. It forms part of the US-NATO encirclement of Russia, and its missiles are to be operational this year.
The message for European NATO is that the US is pulling out all stops to sell weapons, and that although, for example, “about 84% of the UK’s total arms imports come from the United States”, there is room for improvement. Slovakia is buying $150 millions’ worth of helicopters and paying a satisfying $2.91 billion for F-16 fighters, although most other NATO countries appear to have been less disposed, so far, to purchase more of “the best jets, the best missiles, the best guns” that Mr Trump has on offer.
The mine of NATO gold is there for exploitation, and following Trump’s enthusiastic encouragement of his arms’ manufacturers it seems that extraction will be effective. The US Military-Industrial Complex stands to gain handsomely from its President’s campaign to boost the quantities of weapons in the world.
A version of this piece appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on July 30.