The Real Reason NATO Exists: It Is a Goldmine for the Military Industrial Complex
August 7, 2018
Brian Cloughley / AntiWar.com & NATOWatch
Donald Trump has ordered members of NATO's military alliance to double spending on weapons, but his reasons have nothing to do with any defense. NATO's members already spend 12 times more on military preparedness than Russia. Russia is a pretext for a spending spree designed to benefit the global weapons industry. Meanwhile, if Trump reduced NATO spending to 2 percent of the US GDP, this could generate a $159 billion peace to meet US health, housing, and infrastructure needs.
NATO Is a Goldmine for the US/Military Industrial Complex
Brian Cloughley / AntiWar.com
(August 7, 2018) -- 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 percent 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 Defense 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.
Brian Cloughley is author of A History of the Pakistan Army. A version of this piece appeared at Strategic Culture Foundation.
NATO Military Spending 12 Times
More than Russia in 2016, SIPRI Data Shows
NATO's collective military expenditure rose to $881 billion in 2016 (or 52 percent of the world total of $1686 billion, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Russia's military spending in 2016 was $69.2 billion, an increase of 87 percent since 2007, which has enabled Moscow to modernize its armed forces and use them in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. However, the increased spending is a heavy burden on the Russian economy, which is in serious trouble due to low oil and gas prices. And despite these increases, NATO member states collectively spent over 12 times more on the military in 2016 than Russia. Together, the European NATO members spent $254 billion in 2016 -- over 3 times more than Russia.
The United States remains the country with the highest annual military expenditure in the world. US military spending grew by 1.7 percent between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion (but still 20 percent lower than its peak in 2010). Military expenditure in Western Europe rose for the second consecutive year and was up by 2.6 percent in 2016, while overall spending in Central Europe grew by 2.4 percent. Italy recorded the most notable increase, with spending rising by 11 percent between 2015 and 2016.
The SIPRI data shows that trends and patterns in military expenditure vary considerably between regions. Spending continued to grow in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. By contrast, spending fell in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East (based on countries for which data is available), South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
SIPRI also launched a new visual representation of its military spending data, where it is possible to explore how the world spent $1.69 trillion (that's $1,690,000,000) on the military in 2016 and how this has changed over the past 10 years.
Finally, in a timely media backgrounder, SIPRI also compared current NATO military spending against the NATO 2 percent of GDP commitment. NATO members are currently expected, but are not required, to maintain a level of military spending equivalent to 2 percent of their GDP.
The fact that a majority of NATO members do not reach the 2 percent of GDP target has periodically led to questions regarding their commitment to NATO's common defence efforts, as well as to claims of 'free-riding' on the resources devoted by other NATO members, especially the United States.
SIPRI's simulated spending totals have been calculated for all NATO member states, including for those that spent more than 2 percent of GDP on the military in 2016 -- namely Estonia, France, Greece and the USA.
In SIPRI's 2 percent of GDP simulation, major increases in military expenditure would be seen for Belgium, Canada, Denmark Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and a host of smaller NATO member states.
However, NATO's total spending would decrease by $159 billion or 18 percent (mainly because USA spending at 2 percent of GDP would drop by 39 percent or $240 billion). Overall, military expenditure by NATO's European member states in 2016 would be at $320 billion, an increase of $66 billion or 26 percent compared with current spending patterns.
Germany would become the world's fourth-largest spender with a total of $69 billion, which is $200 million short of Russia's spending in 2016. In a realistic world where US spending would remain at current levels and would not fall to 2 percent of GDP, spending in NATO would reach $962 billion -- 57 percent of the world total in 2016.
The transatlantic burden-sharing debate is not new. However, the idea that the US is protecting Europe at American taxpayer expense is a misrepresentation of both the NATO budgeting process and the nature and scope of US defence spending.
Large parts of the US military budget have nothing whatsoever to do with NATO or European security, but go towards a global military presence. Europe's militaries are (with a few exceptions) appropriately scaled for their actual needs, although some states probably do need to spend more intelligently (and some countries may need to increase or pool their defence spending).
In contrast, the US also needs to spend much less and shift the focus to "soft" security expenditure. The case for reducing and rebalancing US security resources is overwhelming but is often the "elephant in the room" during transatlantic burden sharing discussions.
As indicated by the SIPRI data, the USA could generate a $159 billion peace dividend by reducing its spending to the NATO 2 percent of GDP commitment.
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