20 | ENE | 2019

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Weapons, a race in a volatile world

Enrique Berruga Filloy
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Economic recessions have barely affected military spending. The US is still the first, but other countries, including North Korea, are accelerating their pace

The economic recession has barely affected military expenditures worldwide. In 2016 increased the record total of USD$1.68 trillion in global armament investment. This amount refers only to conventional, non-nuclear weapons.

The artifacts preferred by current ministries of defense are gunships, tanks, missile launching systems, territory recognition devices, and helicopter and planes artillery.

All of this indicates that a growing number of countries are witnessing internal conflicts, regional instability conditions or the strengthened and growing presence of non-state actors, such as organized crime groups, insurrection movements or terrorists. And in turn, this has led to a boom in the military industry worldwide.

The United States continues to be the unquestionable king of the military industry. It is the only country in the world that has sufficient capacity to face two armed conflicts at the same time. These capabilities stem from World War II when the US had to fight simultaneously on the European and the Pacific front.

Last year, Washington spent USD$611 billion on new weapons. This implies that the US alone spent the combined total of the 9 countries that follow it on the list of buyers and producers of armament.

The spending reflects Washington's concerns about China's rise as a rival power. The Asian country has displaced Russia in the second place in world weaponry purchase and production. Beijing's intentions to impose its sovereignty over the South China Sea raised the alarms in Washington in the face of a potential conflict with its Japanese and South Korean partners.

The second factor to explain the US military escalation has been Russia's expansionist policy, first in Georgia and then in Crimea, at Ukraine's expense. Moscow's inflexible stance on the Syrian conflict and the use of chemical weapons is also part of this military calculation.

Finally, the third factor involves the emergence of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as the most aggressive and best-armed terrorist group.

Washington's purpose is to strengthen its deterrent power by having the most powerful arsenal in the world. The American military is, above all, an effective brake to the intentions of other nations. With one exception: North Korea.

The club of nations with nuclear weapons had remained intact until the last decade with 8 countries: United States, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Pakistan, and Israel. The new member of the select club is North Korea. It is estimated that Kim Jong-un's government has no more than 10 nuclear weapons, which is significantly less compared to the arsenal of the US or Russia that exceed around 7,000 nuclear bombs each one. Israel, which has the least, has more than 80 nuclear devices. However, North Korea stands out as the only power that consistently practices nuclear tests with the intention of letting the world know that it possesses this type of weaponry.

This makes North Korea the most dangerous actor on the international stage. The joint mobilization of warships by the US, Japan, and South Korea sends a clear signal of concern.

Within this global scenario, Mexico occupies the 28th place as armament consumer, spending USD$7 billion. In Latin America, only Brazil and Colombia surpass Mexico in this area. Our country is not preparing for a possible international conflict. Mexico's challenges are in terms of public security and combat against criminal bands.

The new arms race takes away significantly large economic resources which could be assigned to social welfare. The more military spending, the less investment in health, education or infrastructure. And the lower spending in these areas, the greater the chances of growing social unrest.

The old statement that wars were a powerful motor for economic growth has collapsed in the face of recent evidence. Unprecedented expenditures on armament have not yielded positive results for the improvement of the world's economic situation. What this new arms race has achieved is the building of a more dangerous and uncertain world.



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