Arms Spending Fueled by Iraq Conflict

Little Progress on World Disarmament

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, JUNE 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute this week published its annual study on armaments, disarmament and security issues in the world. The SIPRI Yearbook 2004 observed that the U.S.-led military action against Iraq starting in March 2003 was the dominant security issue of last year. The occupation both displayed the "unique strength" possessed by the United States, as well as revealing the limitations of military power, in SIPRI's opinion.



According to the yearbook, world military spending in 2003 increased by about 11% in real terms. "A remarkable rate of increase," it commented, coming after the 6.5% rise a year earlier. Spending in 2003 reached $956 billion. The main factor behind the increase is the U.S. reaction to the terrorist threat and its action in Iraq. The United States counts for almost half of the world total of military spending.

Military expenditure is also rising in several other major countries, but the increases are smaller. India and Japan have increased spending, roughly in line with their gross domestic product growth. China has also increased its military spending.

The study observes that the overwhelming share of the production of military goods and services takes place in China, Europe, Russia and the United States. Along with a continuing concentration of firms in the arms industry due to company takeovers, SIPRI notes that the traditional arms industry is moving into a new range of security products, in a gray zone between the military and commercial sectors.

The international arms trade has also increased in the last year, with Russia and the United States remaining as the major suppliers. Their major arms importers last year were China, India, Taiwan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and Japan.

SIPRI noted that efforts to continue a conventional-arms reduction in Europe remain deadlocked. The main obstacle is Russia's noncompliance with the commitments it made at a 1999 summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, particularly on the question of withdrawing military forces from Georgia and Moldova.

In the Americas, progress is continuing within the framework of the Organization of American States. Meetings have been held on how to build confidence and deal with security threats.

Weapons of mass destruction

Concerning biological weapons, SIPRI noted that rapid developments in science, particularly in biotechnology, could open up new possibilities for future military or terrorist misuse. Another problem is the increased movement of people, knowledge and products across borders as well as the greater diffusion of information via the Internet.

Establishing effective controls in this area is not easy. It is difficult to gather reliable intelligence in assessing whether a country is developing biological weapons, as experience in Iraq demonstrated. Difficult too is distinguishing between permitted and prohibited activities under the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the yearbook commented.

On a positive note the yearbook mentioned that President Moammar Gadhafi last December made a commitment to dismantle Libya's weapons of mass destruction, including its chemical weapon stockpile.

Regarding nuclear weapons SIPRI commented that non-proliferation efforts continued to face serious challenges in 2003. North Korea announced it would become the first party to withdraw from the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and later announced that it had developed a nuclear weapon capability. As well, evidence emerged that Iran had secretly pursued over several decades nuclear technologies with direct military applications, in contravention of an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

And last year also saw revelations highlighting the willingness of some states, or of individual scientists, to sell sensitive nuclear technologies and design expertise.

Good news on conflicts

The yearbook had some good news on the number of major armed conflicts. At 19 it was the lowest number for the post Cold War period, with the exception of 1997 which saw 18 conflicts. The main source of conflicts continues to be internal strife. In fact, only two of the 19 conflicts were fought between states: Iraq and the allied powers, and the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The yearbook considers Afghanistan to be a mix of inter- and intra-state conflict.

Characteristic of the intra-state conflicts is their resistance to quick solutions. For example, the long-running conflicts in Colombia and Israel have defied repeated efforts to find peace. Last year also saw an intensification of internal conflicts in Burundi, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Liberia and the Philippines. SIPRI judged that these intra-state conflicts can be brought to an end only through sustained efforts, and that in addition to the local parties help is needed from outside to assist in negotiating a settlement between warring parties.

In Africa, the yearbook saw notable progress. Peace processes, with some difficulties, got under way in Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sudan. The report also noted that military governments, often a source of problems, also came under increasing pressure from the African Union and various states to withdraw from the political process.

Fourteen multilateral peace missions were launched, the highest number initiated in a single year since the Cold War. The peace missions were characterized by an increase in the role of regional organizations and multinational coalitions. Regional groups accounted for 11 of the 14 new peace operations established in 2003.

Regarding the organization of peace missions and the role of the United Nations, the yearbook observed that there was a wide variety of situations. In some cases the missions were short-term holding operations. Others were actions following on from U.N. operations, or were activities in a current U.N. mission. In some cases they were operations that received U.N. endorsement, but were outside of U.N. control. The yearbook noted that there are complex issues to be resolved in terms of the coordination between the United Nations and regional organizations.

Another important matter for peace missions last year was the increase in attacks against U.N. peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. A complex relationship exists between military forces and humanitarian aid workers and the report noted that the higher number of attacks last year reignited the debate on the issue within the humanitarian organizations concerning how closely they should be linked to the military.

Justice, trust and cooperation

Representatives of the Holy See continue to be active in promoting efforts to control arms. On March 8 Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke at a conference of experts looking at ways to limit weapons that can cause high civilian casualties. Archbishop Tomasi urged participants to help develop a culture of conflict prevention and to "ensure a security which is based on justice, trust and cooperation between states."

On April 27 Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, spoke at a meeting held to consider the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. With the new threats posed by terrorism, Archbishop Migliore called upon countries to reinforce their commitment to limit the spread of nuclear technology and to negotiate measures leading to an eventual elimination of nuclear arsenals. The SIPRI report clearly shows the urgency of increasing efforts to reduce conflict and arms in the world.