Weapons for Peace
By Herbert Winkler
[This article originally published in: ZDFheute, December 21, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.heute.t-online.de/ZDFde/druckansicht/0,1986,2091375,00.html.]
In its professed search for peace and diplomacy, the world arms itself to the teeth. The superpower USA is mainly responsible for the increased military spending and finances the lion's share of international weapon deliveries. The US is at the top in developing novel weapons and in the military "conquest of outer space".
The remnants of past battles lie on the earth a millionfold.
Increased Military Spending
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the strongest motivation of armament is the battle against terrorism. According to Washington's interpretation, this struggle even justifies the military support of problem states like Armenia, Azerbachistan, India, Pakistan or Tadschikistan that were earlier denied weapon assistance. Restrictions were suspended as a reward for participation in the anti-terror struggle.
In 2002 worldwide military spending rose six percent to $794 billion according to the Stockholm Institute for Peace Research. This trend will probably continue for 2003. In comparison the funds spent for emergency assistance to 45 million people in 21 trouble spots are only a drop in the ocean. UN General secretary Kofi Annan emphasized this in an appeal for help. He called upon creditor countries to spend three billion dollars next year on 1086 projects and urged greater support.
Boom in the Middle East
The US is mainly responsible for the latest increase in military spending. However the US is hardly alone. China, India and Russia take the next places in the list. In the Middle East, 6.3 percent of the gross domestic product is spent on armaments.
The US improved its top position as supplier of conventional weapons. In 2002 according to the Congressional Research service in Washington, 45.5 percent of exports in the amount of $30 billion came from factories of the superpower. Armaments totaling $8.6 billion went to developing countries alone.
The US is not the only country that profits in the arms trade to the Third World. Russia supplied military goods of $5.0 billion and France $1.0. Altogether war material worth $17.7 billion went to these regions.
Third World Suffers
The Third World has to bear the heavy consequences of earlier battles. Between 100 and 200 million landmines still lie in more than 60 countries. Every month more than 2000 persons are victims of this treacherous bequest.
Internationally agreed prohibitions against export and use are issued against older kinds of anti-personnel mines. A new "intelligent" generation of such mines outfitted with sensors and microchips and dispersed from the air will be manufactured and deployed in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Who Removes the Waste?
Still there is a little glimmer of hope. In two or three years, a new disarmament protocol will take effect in which governments including the American government commit themselves to removing all kinds of munition remnants. However scattered munitions responsible for 30 percent of the duds are exempted.
The United Nations is slowly tackling another murderous aspect of the earthly reality without Washington's support: the massive proliferation of small and light weapons. The UN resolved an action program against illegal trade with these weapons. An accounting will be made in New York in the summer of 2006.
Time presses, the world organization declares. "At least 500,000 die annually through small and light weapons. Of the estimated four million dead in the wars of the nineties, 90 percent were civilians and 80 percent of the civilians were women and children. Most died on account of handguns."