In June, the 2006 edition of the SIRPI Yearbook was launched on a press conference in Stockholm. SIRPI is an acronym for Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, one of the most authoritative sources of information on world trends in arms production, arms control, and military expenditure. The publication of the latest yearbook has traditionally given rise to numerous comments in the media. The comments do not always seem objective, a circumstance that can be explained largely by detailed nature, contents and impartiality of the yearbook. Almost everyone can find something in it to back their viewpoints on the world politics, which is too complex for one-sided interpretations anyway.
The main conclusions of the latest SIPRI yearbook fall into line with the conclusions contained in the previous yearbooks e.g. world military expenditure is on the increase despite of an overall decrease in the number of armed conflicts in the world. The United States keeps taking the lead, spending a trillion dollars on arms; its military expenditure amounts to nearly four-fifths of the world total.
It is noteworthy that authors of the yearbook assume that Washington could cut down on such huge military spending by taking a more active line over its cooperation with other important players at the world political scene. However, the U.S. seems to opt to handle all issues relating to international security on its own. The effectiveness of this strategy is yet another question.
As regards arms exports, Russia continues to consolidate its position as the world’s leading arms supplier, closely followed by the U.S. In comparison with the two leaders, the current arms exports of other countries are just a fraction. We would like to highlight Ukraine among the second-tier arms suppliers. Ukraine sells more arms and equipment than such countries as Canada, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Russian Vice Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov who supervises Russia’s military-industrial complex has been frequently speaking about parting company with Ukraine in terms of Russia-Ukraine arms sale cooperation. Analysts can only guess what the future holds in store for Ukraine’s arms exports if the forecasts become a reality.
Speaking of the nationality of commentators, it is understood that it plays a role when it comes to specific ways of perception of the latest SIPRI yearbook. European journalists paint a frightening picture of Russia’s arms exports while the U.S. media are more concerned about China’s growing military expenditure. As far as we are concerned, we would like to draw attention to Georgia, which demonstrated the highest increase in military spending in 2005.
The increase in Georgia’s military expenditure reached 140%; $148 million were spent on arms and equipment. Perhaps the Georgian government could have better off spending the funds on something else, say, on wineries. Investing in winemaking could have improved the quality of Georgian wine. But that is beside the point. The SIPRI yearbook reminds the reader of a longstanding dilemma: which one of the two is more important – guns or butter?
Potential success in implementing Georgia’s economic and social policies could have reasoned South Ossetia and Abkhazia out of pursuing independence.
The reader may develop curiosity for a similar issue as he looks through the yearbook. According to the liberal school of the theory of international relations, an arms race is a ruinous thing. The money allocated for arms might as well be spent on things of more vital importance. But neither industrially developed countries nor developing nations are willing to value butter higher than guns.
The situation might result in a conclusion about the world’s strongest economies e.g. the U.S. having to spend millions on defense because they have nothing else to spend the money on, as though all social problems have been already solved. However, the facts prove the opposite. The so-called war on terror can hardly justify such a level of military expenditure. The huge military budgets have to do with fighting the consequences, the cause is left out.
The present-day world is undoubtedly rife with most different challenges and dangers. The governments spend an enormous amount of money in an attempt to prevent those dangers. By all appearances, aside from symbolizing power in today’s world, arms and military force is also a tool of putting psychological pressure. The psychological pressure sometimes misfires. Georgia’s foreign policy is one of the examples of missing the target.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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