Russia-Ukraine War : A Gold Rush for the Western Arms Manufacturers


File Photo, Kolkata

The most devastating war is going on between Russia and Ukraine for several months. Thousands of people are killed, many thousands are injured, and millions fled to neighbouring countries to take shelter because of the attack of imperialist Russia on Ukraine. Many cities, towns and villages are destroyed including hospitals and schools. Thousands of soldiers from both the sides lost their lives. Daily the newspapers and the electronic media are carrying painful plight of the hapless people there. Many countries are facing fuel and food crisis due to the war. In the columns of previous issues of Proletarian Era, we have concluded that this war is the outcome of intense contradictions among imperialist countries over capture of market. Russia, being the aggressor, wants to establish its hegemony over the countries of erstwhile Soviet Union, while the Western imperialist countries led by USA want to expand war machine of NATO to the borders of Russia using Ukraine as scapegoat. We have also shown clearly that imperialist countries based on militarization of economy cannot survive without engineering local or partial wars somewhere or other if not full-fledged World War.

War Merchants make huge fortunes
But there is another side of this deadly war. ‘The business of War’. Many industrial sharks, arms producers, contractors, and oil merchants are gaining huge profits and accumulating their wealth during the present time. Starting from the World War I, in every minor or major war, these death merchants gathered huge profits. Major General Smedley Butler, in his book War Is a Racket, criticized war profiteering of US companies during World War I. He wrote about how some companies and corporations boosted their incomes and profits by up to seventeen times.
In the book, Butler wrote that ‘‘It has been estimated by statisticians, economists, and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was spent in the actual war period. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits’’. Companies like Opel and IBM increased their profits by working with the fascist Hitler regime. In the case of IBM, they developed technologies that were used to count, categorise, and select Jewish people who could then be targeted for efficient asset confiscation, consolidation in ghettos, deportation, enslaved labour, and annihilation.
During Vietnam war US imperialists bombed every inch of the country. Texas-based Brown & Root company was awarded massive engineering contracts to build numerous new ports, bases and airports in South Vietnam. Another American company, Bell Helicopter, was also a huge beneficiary. US based oil companies also benefitted a lot from the vast quantities of extra fuel oil, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel expended by the forces of the U.S. and its allies. As several analysts and political observers have pointed out, whenever there was a military conflict, the U.S. military-industrial complex made a fortune. During the Afghanistan War, defence sector stocks outperformed the average of the stock market by 58%. Though outwardly the 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is being considered as a failure for the United States, the political and economic analysts are saying that for the powerful industrial houses and defence contractors it turned out to be an extraordinary success.

Private arms manufacturers of US are flushed with funds
Like in all imperialist wars, in the present war too western arms manufacturing companies are competing with each other to earn billions of dollars. Although USA and its European allies condemned the Russian invasion, in reality, they want it to be continued further to enable them to supply more arms. William Hartung, an expert on the international arms trade, points out that ‘‘these opportunities represent a ‘gold rush’ for the industry.’’
It is known to the world that most of the weapons Ukraine is using in the war such as Stinger, Javelin (anti-tank missile) and Stormer missile systems are manufactured in USA. The imperialist countries headed by the United States, especially their arms dealers, have raked in super profits from both NATO’s enlargement and the Russian attack on Ukraine. As reported in New York Times date 20 April 2020, the Pentagon had arranged a classified meeting with the top officials of eight major arms manufacturers such as Boeing Defense, Space & Security, L3Harris Technologies, Raytheon Technologies, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Huntington Ingalls Industries, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation, manufacture sophisticated military hardware like Lavelin (anti-tank missile) and the Stinger (anti-aircraft). When queried, the Pentagon officials informed that they apprised those arms manufacturers that ‘‘the Biden Administration is working around the clock to fulfill Ukraine’s priority security assistance requests, drawing down weapons from US stocks when they are available, purchasing directly from industry for rapid delivery to Ukraine, and facilitating the transfer of weapons from allies and partners when their systems better suit Ukraine’s needs’’.
In fact, the Biden administration has already spent about 3.2 billion dollars in arms aid to Ukraine. Again, on 19 May last, the US Congress has approved 40 billion dollars for aiding Ukraine. This aid is by and large nothing but arms from the current stockpile or trading from private weapon manufacturing companies.
In the US and in Europe, defence manufacturing is primarily in the hands of private players. When a government announces military aid, one pre-condition is that it would pay the defence manufacturers who supply arms to the receiving nation. When the war is being continued and supply of arms is being increased, the share prices of these arms manufacturing companies shoot up many times. In March last, the share value of Lockheed Martin Corporation is whooped up by 16%. Similarly, General Dynamics shot up by 12%, Raytheon Technologies by 8% and Northrop Grumman by 22%. While commenting on the war, one retired Indian Major General told to media persons that ‘‘this is what countries like the US do. They make profits out of war. This is what they did during World War II. They pitted Russia and Germany against each other. 25 million Russians died. The death toll for the Germans was 7 million. Those who supplied arms and ammunition laughed their way to the bank.’’

Increased militarization of economy and arms trade
Another revealing fact of the war is that 20 members of US Congress personally invested in top weapon contractors who are slated to reap huge profit from the recently sanctioned Ukraine aid package of 40 billion dollars. Many Republican and Democratic members of US legislature are reported to have invested heavily in the defence contractors. Following the trail, the other European allies of US are also increasingly militarizing their economies in the wake of the Ukraine war. The British government has also been holding meetings with defence industry officials, and hosted representatives from Ukraine for a display of the power of the armoured missile launchers known as Stormers. Britain has now reportedly agreed to send the weapons to Ukraine. Germany is seeking to reshape their entire military and has already placed an order for 35 F-35 fighters, the world’s most modern combat aircrafts, from USA manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The move came after German chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin would increase its military expenditure by a one-off payment of 113 billion dollars and commit to devoting 2 per cent of its annual budget on arms expenditure.
Accumulation of huge profits by killing people and destroying the civilization is not because of some devil minded blood thirsty profit mongers. It is the inevitable outcome of the present-day decadent capitalist-imperialist system. The architect of November revolution, great Lenin said long back that ‘‘Imperialism generates war.’’ Maximization of profit is the sole motive behind production in this system. As the inevitable consequence of crisis in the capitalist-imperialist economy, purchasing power of the people goes on dwindling and market crunches. So, in order to create artificial market, the capitalist-imperialists are resorting more and more to militarization of economy. Great Stalin had taught that ‘‘In order to eliminate the inevitability of wars imperialism must be destroyed.’’ Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, Founder General Secretary of the SUCI(C) and one of the foremost Marxist thinkers of this era, had shown long back that ‘‘In expanding their respective economic and political influence, the imperialists, therefore, are finding it still harder to reconcile their conflicting interests, resulting in the contradictions between them taking a naked shape. And the more acute the crisis is becoming, the more frantically the imperialists are militarizing their economy. Of course, these are nothing but attempts, in vain, by the imperialist-capitalist countries to maintain, at least temporarily, the relative stability of the capitalist market through artificial stimulation by constantly increasing military consumption.’’ Today, the relative stability of capitalist market is virtually extinct. So, through escalated militarization of economy and arms trade and engineering local and largescale wars to release the stockpiled arms, the imperialists-capitalists are trying to stave off the crisis.

People all over the World are at receiving end
While the war merchants of imperialist powers are making fortunes over the war, common people round the globe are put to untold suffering. Apart from large scale devastation and increased death toll day by day in both the warring countries, disruption of supply chain of goods, exorbitant price rise and mounting unemployment are haunting the other countries also including the US. The sanctions imposed on Russia fuelled the surge in oil and natural gas prices world over. Because of war, significant quantities of wheat, corn and barley are trapped in Russia and Ukraine, while an even larger portion of fertilizers is stuck in Russia and Belarus. Russia is the world’s largest fertilizer exporter, providing about 15% of the world supply. When farmers around the world are prepared for rowing season, Russia told its fertilizer producers to halt exports. The result is that global food and fertilizer prices are soaring. Russia has largely been unable to export food because of economic sanctions slapped on it by US and some of its allies. Ukraine, meanwhile, has been cut off physically from others as because Russia has blocked the Black Sea for exports and Ukraine lacks enough rail cars to transport food over land. Since the Russian invasion, wheat prices have increased by 21%, barley by 33% and some fertilizers by 40%. Countries like Armenia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Eritrea who depend on Russia and Ukraine for importing wheat from Russia and Ukraine, are facing shortage of food. Tunisia struggled to pay for some food imports before the war and now is trying to prevent an economic collapse because of supply disruptions. Inflation has already set off protests in Morocco and Sudan. One of the reasons behind the Indian capitalist rulers’ maintaining a so-called neutral stand is that over 50% of the Indian weapon imports come from Russia. At the same time, has a close business tie with US and western countries. So, Indian big corporates and monopoly houses are also looking for an opportunity to extract maximum benefits from this ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Not to speak of other countries including India, even in US, prices of all essential commodities are up 8.6% over a year prior, the largest increase in 40 years, according to government data. Economists expect the war to further inflate those prices. Objecting to the 40 billion Ukraine Bill, the American senator Mr Rand Paul could not but reveal that ‘‘US cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy. In March, inflation hit 40 years high. Gasoline alone is up 48% and energy prices are up 32% over the last year. Food prices have increased by nearly 9%. Used vehicle prices are up 35% for the year and new vehicle prices have increased 12% or more. Yes, inflation does not come out of nowhere. It comes from deficit spending… Americans are feeling pain. And the Congress seems intent only on adding to that pain by shovelling more money out the door as fast as they can…’’

Rise up against imperialist war machination
This is the scenario of world today in the context of Russia-Ukraine war continuing for about three months. As the traditional imperialist countries led by US are trying to perpetuate their dominance over the world, Russia and China, who have emerged as new imperialist powers after counter-revolution are challenging their hegemony. When US is trying to extend its sphere of influence by forming various economic and military combinations and dragging many other capitalist countries under its fold, intra-imperialist contradictions are intensifying and leading to wars endangering world peace and progress.
War means death, destruction, devastation, mass exodus and untold sufferings to whole humanity. So, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that until and unless imperialism-capitalism are overthrown, the threat of war would loom large. Therefore, the peaceloving people around the world should get united and unleash a powerful, well-coordinated anti-imperialist movement to exert pressure on the war-mongers. Let the suffering people imbibe the truth ingrained in the teachings of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh: ‘‘It would be possible to banish war for good from human society only when socialist revolution would become victorious throughout the world or when the present capitalist encirclement will be replaced by the encirclement of a few remaining capitalist countries by the world socialist system.’’

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