nairiporter (nairiporter) wrote in talk_politics,

Defending world peace... by selling guns

2011 was the year of protests and great changes. People in the Middle East took to the streets and defended their right for democracy, human rights, and a fairer access to the resources of their countries. The sparkle of the Arab spring jumped over to China and Azerbaijan, Yemen and Bahrain. But now as we look back, the democratic achievements in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt could hardly be called a success. Meanwhile, regimes like China used their full repressive capacity to suffocate the democratic movements in their roots. Words like 'Jasmine Revolution' and even 'Egyp't were banned from the Internet there. The governments of Syria and Azerbaijan displayed the harshest reaction to public dissent. Others bought their subjects' loyalty and silence with whimsical bonuses, like Saudi Arabia and Oman. Very few decided to make real changes. It would now seem that most of these societies, after venting out most of their frustration, will have the same-old-same-old once more, but with different players, and while only nominally being called democracies. Reference: Egypt.

Europe and America may have given their verbal support for the democratic movements, stating that criticism of state oppression and its heavy economic consequences is well grounded. But in the meantime these same paragons of democracy have never interrupted their connections with either those repressive governments (where they remained) or their successors (where the revolutions succeeded). Because geopolitical interest trumps nice words, and many of these regimes guarantee relative stability in strategically important regions, which on top of that abound of natural resources. As a consequence, human rights violations committed by friendly regimes are being either ignored or in the best case met with scorn, and nothing more. No real measures are being taken against them, while business continues as usual. This is the conclusion of none other but Amnesty International and many other human rights organisations.

Take Bahrain for example. The US have geostrategic and military interests there. When the local regime "invited" Saudi Arabia to help it suffocate the public protests, the US practically remained impassive. In fact it turns out only some of these democratic movements enjoy Western support (at least in words), while others do not. In the cases like Bahrain, the silence has been deafening. Because the military base there is more important, and the regular oil deliveries too, and last but not least, the lucrative arms deals with the local regimes. The oppressors of democracy have the money, and they pay very well for arms, produced in the West. That same West, which claims to be defending peace and freedom.

Italy, France and Britain were among the main arms suppliers for Gaddafi in Libya, and America was and still is the main arms supplier for Egypt (previously of Mubarak, now most likely of the Muslim Brotherhood). Tanks, helicopters, ammo, and experts - those were the supplies that came from the West. Meanwhile, Germany had secretly approved the delivery of its most modern tanks to Saudi Arabia. There was criticism from the opposition and the Church in Germany, but the agreement is a fact now.

Turns out that Germany is a larger arms supplier in the world than China itself. But everyone is complaining about China's geopolitical inroads in Africa and Central Asia, and its arms production and arms supplies for friendly regimes throughout Asia. How come? We cannot be so blind as to not notice that all the UN Security Council members, presumably those guarantors for peace in the world, are in fact the largest arms producers and suppliers in the world?

In reality, the bulk of world's weapons trade in the world belongs to the 5 veto members in UNSC. The biggest exporters of conventional weapons were USA (30%) and Russia (23%), followed by France (8%), Britain (4%), and China (3%). Yes, "militaristic" China exports 10 times less than America.

So we shouldn't be acting surprised when Russia is vetoing any attempts for harsher sanctions against Syria in the UNSC. It would be too optimistic to believe that the Council is a real guarantor for the human rights around the world, having sold weapons to regimes and groups who outright spit on these very same human rights. But let's make this clear. I have no intention to over-generalize and put labels on entire countries. It would be too easy to do that, and we should keep in mind that juggling between the various political and economic interests is a difficult game, and moreover all politicians, governments, and policies, should not be put under the same denominator.

The more important question could well be: will an efficient control be put on the arms trade worldwide? Would anyone let that happen?

Well, there will be an international conference in New York in July, where a possible solution to the issue will be sought, and hopefully an international agreement on arms trade would be reached. It should introduce a certain set of international standards for cross-border trade with conventional weapons. Let's wait and see if it would be watered down under the pressure of big interests, or the politicians would show some balls this time. Frankly, I remain skeptical. Granted, there has been some pressure from various countries to do something in that respect, and that pressure if correctly focused on the biggest players like America and the remaining UNSC permanent members. And I do believe such a possible agreement should include not just weapons, but ammunition as well.

The agreement is supposed to be adopted by UN on July 27. We will be watching closely.
Tags: geopolitics, international relations, middle east
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