Astonishing Q&A on defence -- by Dr Farrukh Saleem Back   Home  
Q 1: Who are the poorest of the poor on the face of the planet?
A: Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Haiti, Mozambique, Mali, India, and Angola.
Q 2: Which countries are facing either extreme civil strife or are engaged in an active civil war?
A: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
Q 3: Which countries are either trying to come out of a civil war or are attempting to settle border disputes?
A: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mali, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and Yemen.
Conclusion No1: Almost every country that is engaged in either an internal or an external conflict is pathetically poor. Countries where a civil war continues to rage or are currently involved in an active border dispute are even poorer than those that are somehow trying to settle their disputes through peaceful means. There appears to be a strong correlation between poverty and conflict. If countries in conflict are poor then conflict must be the cause of poverty.
Q 4: Which countries are the top recipients of major conventional weapons?
A: Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, S Korea, China, India, Greece, Egypt, Japan, UAE, Israel, Finland, Pakistan, Kuwait and Singapore.
Q 5: Who are top suppliers of major conventional weapons?
A: USA, Russia, France, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Ukraine, Italy, China, Belarus, Spain, Israel, Canada, Australia and Sweden.
Q 6: Which companies are the major producers of weapons?
A: Lockheed Martin (USA), Boeing (USA), BAE Systems (UK), Raytheon (USA), Northrop Grumman (USA), General Dynamics (USA) and Thomson-CSF (France).
Conclusion No 2: The US is the chief pretender of virtue but is the largest seller of arms. US arms exports account for a full 50% of the world trade in arms.
Q 7: Why did Taiwan spend $12 billion over the past four years on defence?
A: Growth in the Taiwanese economy over the past two decades has been nothing less than spectacular. The defence budget has also grown from a paltry $209 million in 1980 to a current figure of $12.2 billion (making it the largest arms purchaser). Taiwan says it is buying advanced jet fighters; attack helicopters and missile because it is afraid Mainland China might attempt to reunite Taiwan. The country that is profiting from it the most is the US. It is selling more than $10 billion worth of air surveillance radars, Hawk Intercept Aerial guided missiles, Knox Class frigates and Harpoon missiles just over the past 10 years. Taiwan now spends 2.8% of its GDP on defence.
Q 8: Why did Saudi Arabia spend $8.3 billion over the past four years on defence?
A: Saudi Arabia has become America's leading customer buying $40.6 billion worth of killing machines over the past ten years. But, whom is Saudi Arabia going to kill? Iraq has been neutered and Saudi Arabia's other six neighbours-Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE and Yemen-are all Muslim countries. American corporations that continue to prosper on Saudi Arabia's oil include Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Q 9: Where does Pakistan stand?
A: Pakistan is at the bottom of the list of UN's list of poor countries but came out to be the 13th largest buyer of arms on the face of planet. Most of Pakistan's money has gone to China Metallurgical Equipment Corporation, Lockheed Martin (a billion dollars for F-16s, P-3 Orion, etc.) and Raytheon (Stingers, side-winders and TOW missiles).
Q 10: From among the poorest of the poor which country spends the highest on defence?
A: As a % of GDP, from among the poorest of countries (spending more than $1 billion over the 1996-2000 period), Pakistan, at 4.4% of GDP, spends the highest on defence.
Q 11: What are some of the other countries that spend a disproportionately large percentage of their GDP on defence?
A: Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Mozambique, Somalia and Yemen.
Q 12: What happened to Yugoslavia?
A: Yugoslavia is no more. Split into Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro.
Q 13: What happened to the Soviet Union?
A: The Soviet Union is no more. Split into at least 15 pieces that few even bother to count; Russian Federation, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Q 14: What happened to Afghanistan?
A: No one wants to live in Afghanistan any more. At least half of the country is either in Pakistan or in Iran. The rest couldn't be poorer. The Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium poppies and the poppy crop remains the largest source of government revenue.
Q 15: What happened to Iraq?
A: Iraq used to derive 95% of its foreign exchange from the export of oil. It was rich. Sadaam then spent all his money on Scud-derivatives, Al Hussein, Al Hijarah and Al Abbas. More money went into the Supergun project producing 210mm Al Fao, 155mm Majnoon and the 40 m long Baby Babylon. Additional resources were consumed by the Anti Satellite Weapons programme, Radiological weapons and Anti-Personnel Lasers. Iraq now has a colossal $130 billion debt and no food or medicines for its 23 million people.
Q 16: What happened to Syria?
A: Syria first tried to buy nuclear reactors from China, Argentina and Russia. Unsuccessful at that, it spent a lot of money on its Chemical Weapons Programme involving Scud missile warheads, VX nerve gas and aerial bombs filled with sarin. Syria, as a consequence, remains an agriculture economy where 80% of the land continues to be dependent on rain.
Q 17: What happened to Yemen?
A: Yemen, even though it exports oil, is now the poorest country in the Arab world with one of the highest per capita external debt in the world.
Conclusion No 3: Almost every country that has been spending a large part of its GDP on defence has either split up, is in a state of civil war or is economically insolvent.
Q 18: Can increased defence spending increase security?
A: The reverse may actually be true. High levels of defence spending weakens the economy and makes a country more vulnerable to external as well as internal threats.
Q 19: Is there a connection between the threat that a country faces and its defence budget?
A: Saudi Arabia has no threat but it spent $8.3 billion just over the past four years. Finland, Norway, Japan and Germany are cases at the other extreme.
Finland has had two hostile neighbours-Sweden and Russia. Finland was conquered and ruled by Sweden from the 12th till the 19th century. Russia ruled over Finland from 1809 till 1917. During WWII Soviet Union and Germany tried invading the country. Finland, however, refuses to spend more than 2% of its GDP on defence. The country has a per capita income that is roughly equivalent to France, Germany or the UK.
Norway's border with Russia is 167 km. Norway was actually occupied by the Germans, but the country refuses to spend anything over 2% of its GDP on defence. Japan was defeated in WWII but has since not spent more than 1% of its GDP on defence. That may indeed be one of the secrets to Japan's economic success.
Germany fought both WWI and WWII and was actually occupied by Allied Forces of the UK, US, France and the Soviet Union. The country has since not spent more than 1.5% of its GDP on defence.
Conclusion No 4: The magnitude of a country's defence budget may have nothing to do with the actual threat that it faces.
This article was published in Pakistan Newspaper Jung. The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist.