Thursday, July 7

the national shotguns

The recent Spanish arms export report for 2021 reaffirms the Government’s commitment to not only maintain but also promote the arms sector. Maintaining a level of exports of over 3 billion euros in 2021 (3,290.2M) is not an easy task in a demanding international market, in which even other European countries and the US are competitors. Spain sells above all what it produces with its public or semi-public arms companies. It mainly exports military aircraft and warships produced by Airbus and Navantia, military communications and navigation systems, and electronic warfare elements produced by Indra. But Spain is also a major exporter of traditional weapons (bombs, ammunition, mortars, tanks…) through Santa Bárbara (by General Dynamics), Expal (by Maxam), Sapa or Instalaza. Many of the contracts that these and other Spanish arms companies win are facilitated by active government action. You only have to look at the list of businessmen who accompany the President, corresponding ministers or even the Monarch, to see how contracts that can reach several billion euros are obtained. This is the case of the 5 Navantia corvettes sold to Saudi Arabia in 2018, of which the first delivery was made this year. Undoubtedly, the statistics of arms exports in the coming years will be more voluminous when adding the aforementioned warships, whose unit price exceeds 300 million.

Returning to 2021 sales, we see that, although 73.4% are destined for EU and NATO countries, there is a not insignificant percentage of Spain Brand weapons that are destined for countries that generate serious doubts. The main controversy has been provided, since the war in Yemen began, by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which lead the coalition that bombards Yemen with numerous human rights violations and the very probable commission of war crimes, in the hands of the International Criminal Court. . But there is more. Spain has sold weapons to regimes with a sad democratic track record, such as Duterte’s Philippines, Abdelfatah El-Sisi’s Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, and even the Sultan of Oman, to name just a few examples from a long list. of more than doubtful destinations.

It should be remembered that national and European legislation and even an international treaty (the Arms Trade Treaty that entered into force in 2014) prohibit Spain from selling weapons to countries in conflict, in which human rights are violated, among others. limitations whose objective is to prevent arms from being transferred to countries that may contribute to generating greater insecurity for their population or in the region in which they are located. Every year Spain sells weapons to authoritarian countries, governed by consolidated or potential satraps and, what is worse, our leaders boast of it.

The reasons to which the Minister of Defense points in her defense of arms exports are based on two untenable arguments. The first is that the government sells weapons to countries of dubious reputation, it knows, but makes them sign a three-page document called a Certificate of End Use, which specifies the exported weapons that they suspect could be used for what the law does not allow, in which a box has also been added in a section called verification clause, which, if marked, indicates that the importing government must facilitate a visit to the facilities where the weapons are located to check that they are being used correctly. It is hard to think of a more forceful mechanism.

Mrs. Robles’ second argument is that arms production in Spain provides employment. More was missing. The question is at what cost. The first reflection is of an ethical nature, in which jobs are placed above any other moral consideration, for which weapons can be sold to countries that use them against the civilian population, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen, as long as this creates employment. By this rule of three, let’s start selling weapons to Bashar Al Assad, Kim Yong Un or Vladimir Putin himself. If they pay well and provide work, they only have to sign the three-page document and check the verification clause. But this second argument also hides a fallacy that many times repeated tries to become true. Investment in weapons generates employment. This would be the case of the purchase of weapons by the Spanish Ministry of Defense itself. It is the case of the frigates of the future Ferrol, where Navantia will manufacture 5 new F-110s for the Spanish Navy, which are estimated to generate, according to the source, between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs, at a cost to public coffers of 4,320 million euros over 9 years. There is no study that shows that this job is actually the one advertised, is superior in number and quality to others and, above all, is more necessary than investment in public services with a lack of personnel. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. There is at least one study from an American university (Brown University) that indicates that the cost of generating this job is higher than that of hiring health or education personnel.

Made the law, made the trap, Spain sells weapons to countries that make it break the law on arms exports and the minutes of the meetings of the JIMDDU (Interministerial Board of Defense Material and Dual Use), in which the decision to authorize arms exports, are secret by a law from the Franco era, the Law of Official Secrets of 1968. Imagine a meeting of experts from Economy, Trade, Foreign Affairs, Industry and Defense who are those who make up the JIMDDU with the dossier sale of small arms and light weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia. Criterion two, is it a country in which human rights are violated? Surely not, the Super Cup final was played there. Criterion three, is Saudi Arabia in armed conflict? No, it doesn’t ring a bell. Criterion four, is the region you are in calm, any tension or risk to regional security? Middle East, a haven of peace.

Thinking about it, the authorization and verification procedure that the government has devised to control its arms exports makes for a Berlanga film.

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