On September 21, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world will take part in the People’s climate march. Organized to put pressure on world leaders attending next Tuesday’s UN climate summit in New York to make meaningful commitments on climate change, it has been billed as ‘the largest environmental march’ in history. Continue reading “The people’s climate march: exposing the environmental costs of militarism”
The crisis in Ukraine is fast escalating into a civil and proxy war. Over 150 people have died in clashes between Ukrainian Soldiers and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, many of them civilians. In the bloodiest incident, more than 30 people were killed in Odessa when Neo-Nazis set fire to a trade union building. Most recently jets have dropped bombs on the city of Lugansk.
Given these circumstances, it is quite extraordinary that NATO is planning war games in Ukraine this July. UK and US troops are due to participate alongside Ukrainian troops in joint military exercises as part of NATO’s ‘Rapid Trident’ manoeuvres.
Many European governments have used the situation in the Ukraine as justification to increase military spending. But only in Switzerland do people have a direct say in their country’s military policy. And the signal that the Swiss people sent out last Sunday was very clear: Buying expensive weapons systems is not a priority.
In a national referendum, 53.4% of the voters rejected the purchase of 22 Swedish JAS Gripen E fighter jets. The deal was worth £2 billion immediately and £6.6 billion including operations and maintenance over the next few years. The government had proposed the procurement to replace the ageing F-5 Tiger fleet that will be put out of operation next year.
Dear Prime Minister
We are writing with respect to the National Security Strategy (NSS) review and the Defence and Security Review (DSR), both of which are scheduled to be published following the 2015 General Election. We do so in light of the report of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (DC), Towards the Next Defence and Security Review, (HC 197), published on 7 January, to which several of us submitted evidence, and the Government’s response, published on 26 March. We understand that the recommendations of this report will be the subject of a parliamentary debate in the coming months.
We urge you to ensure that the NSS and DSR processes help to shape the UK’s strategy in the world in a coherent manner. In summary, we believe:
At this time of flux, there is a need to address some fundamental questions that have been neglected in the past, in particular the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and threats to security.
There is a need to be honest about the UK’s capability to contribute to tackling security challenges, and the Government needs to be prepared to change its approach, not simply focusing on dealing with the symptoms of insecurity.
This discussion needs to be frank, inclusive and (as far as possible) take place in the public realm.
The DSR needs to sit clearly and transparently within the NSS, with its decisions justified by reference to the NSS.
The latest world military expenditure figures show that spending is an enormous $1.75 trillion. One of the nations continuing to spend the most is the UK, which plans to spend £38 billion in 2014/15. This shows the backwards priorities of a government that is protecting its overblown military budget, at the same time as it is subjecting vital public services to drastic spending cuts.
For too long we have lived with the myth that high military spending maintains peace, creates jobs and combats terrorism. This myth is promoted by governments and the multinational arms companies that benefit from the global arms trade politically and economically.
The money and skills which are currently being wasted on needless and destructive weapons like the Trident nuclear weapons system would be far better spent on strengthening vital services and tackling the real challenges affecting our society; such as poverty, health inequality and environmental problems. Continue reading “Statement on the SIPRI military expenditure figures for 2013.”
“Social reforms which involve expenditure are at a standstill; we are making drastic cuts in the supplies for education and for housing; our hospitals are seriously embarrassed; our industries are crippled; our unemployed number more than 1,500,000, and yet in the last financial year we spent more than 23 million upon armaments. No wonder the taxpayer grumbles and the financiers shakes their heads.”
– Major General Sir Frederick (Barton) Maurice in 1921 (1)
Today, Monday 14 April, we are taking action with people across the world to challenge military spending and to say it’s time to shift priorities and fund human needs, not war. Meanwhile, researchers for Selling to Both Sides: the arms trade and the First World War have been exploring debates about military spending before and after the First World War, and the parallels with today.
Continue reading “Shifting priorities, then and now”