The bankruptcy of the arms trade

Having previously labeled David Cameron a ‘glorified arms salesman’ in the wake of his prevarication over the suspension of arms export licenses between the UK and Israel, last week’s NATO summit has done little to assuage concerns over the cozy relationship enjoyed between politicians and arms manufacturer representatives.


The nature of this most recent NATO summit points to the trumpeting of increasingly militaristic policies over domestic social issues. Arms contracts are completed, ignoring the respective domestic situations of the parties concerned. Israel, for example, continues to import vast amounts of sophisticated weaponry, its vendors turning a blind eye to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Statistically, the US-Israel arms relationship has actually increased since the cessation of hostilities in Gaza.


The summit can be aptly described as a private soiree for defense contractors and government leaders, in which the prospect of lucrative arms contracts, dominate proceedings. Airbus and General Dynamics (currently producing thousands of hi-tech armored vehicles in Wales) were both ‘official sponsors’ of the event. Global arms corporations such as BAE systems and Raytheon UK have also provided significant financial support for the summit. It is safe to assume, focusing the spotlight on Cameron directly, that the words ‘Bedroom Tax’ did not even permeate his consciousness, as he mingled with the great and the good of the Bahraini autocracy.


There remains growing international disregard for the internal and external policies of potential clients upon the completion of outstanding defense contracts. Britain’s arms relationship with a number of autocratic Gulf states- most notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar- endures, no matter the abhorrent repression evident throughout the region. The US inevitably stands idly by as American weapons are consistently used to foment instability across the globe.


All pretenses of ethical or political stances towards the arms trade have been exposed as façades by the recent example of a July Franco-Russian defense contract. As tensions escalated between Russia and its Western European adversaries in the wake of the MH17 disaster, France went ahead with a lucrative $1.6 billion defense contract with the Kremlin. No matter the seriousness of the political situation, the bankruptcy of ethics within the arms trade will always win out.


From a UK-centric narrative, it can be pertained that the prerogatives of the MOD (ministry of defense) take pride of place amongst Coalition policy. Cameron, on account of his behavior in Wales, is seemingly ignoring the oft-repeated mantra that ‘security begins at home’. Cameron announced that ‘the government will be spending 3.5 billion pounds on military vehicles’. Whilst austerity continues to ravage much of the Eurozone, Cameron took his opportunity amongst his Bahraini cronies (invited to attend the summit), to call upon all NATO members to increase the level of their military spending. NATO’s military spending already accounts for a monumental 70% of global military spending.


Taking all of his economic policy options into consideration, David Cameron’s ethical compass has been skewed by his belief that fostering relations with copious amounts of arms manufacturers, can only serve to bolster the coffers of the UK treasury. Cameron clearly has his priorities all wrong. Whilst he cuts disability benefits and turns a blind eye to the rapid mushrooming of food banks across the country, billions of pounds is being spent on military supplies that could be diverted the millions suffering from his unnecessarily harsh austerity program. There exists an obsession and prioritization of defense over social welfare issues, and it is the bankruptcy of the arms trade and Cameron’s policies towards it, that should shoulder much of the blame.