The official justification for the Government’s unquestioning support for the arms trade is that it is vital to safeguard “national security”. CAAT’s Arms to Renewables campaign argues that we must shift priorities to tackle the root causes of insecurity.
What is security?
For individuals in the UK and all over the world, security means having basic needs met and feeling safe in our homes and communities.
In contrast, the Government views security almost exclusively through a military lens. Its National Security Strategy is based on military force and the projection of power.
Spending vast amounts of money on military procurement and pushing arms sales doesn’t enhance security, it fuels conflict, supports repression and makes the world a more dangerous place.
For example, military action in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in greater instability and an upsurge in violent extremism.
Political situations change, often rapidly, and the Government cannot control how weapons it sells now may be used in future. The UK was still pushing arms sales to Libya in the days before its military intervention, later bombing some of the weapons that it had provided.
Arms sales to authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia support human rights abuses, both directly through the use of UK-supplied weaponry, and indirectly, as a signal of political support for repressive state action.
Impact at home
High military spending and subsidies for the arms trade don’t just tear apart lives in distant places; they come at the expense of meeting needs at home. In the face of public service cuts and record numbers of people relying on food banks, UK ministers used last year’s NATO meeting to call for higher military spending, warning against prioritising social welfare spending.
Real security requires tackling the root causes of insecurity. The short-term approach of military threats marginalises the “drivers of insecurity” such as climate change and inequality.
CAAT’s research shows that the UK renewables industry has huge potential. If we shift priorities we could export technologies that help address the causes of insecurity, instead of creating future conflict. But this requires the skills of arms trade workers, and the level of government support currently devoted to the arms trade.