Salman Rafi Sheikh
Today, if there is one issue in the United States that draws equal support from both the Republicans and the Democrats, it is the fact that China presents the most serious threat to the US global supremacy. Related to this is the other point of agreement i.e., developing a global coalition against China. The Trump administration’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was on a mission throughout his tenure to build that coalition. The Biden administration, too, has devoted itself to the same task. Indeed, the level of deterioration we have seen in the US-China relations during the Biden era surpasses the trouble that the Trump administration caused. The same holds true about US geopolitics vis-à-vis Russia. The ongoing Russian military operation in Ukraine has allowed the US to cement its position vis-à-vis Europe.
One very useful way for the US to maintain its hegemony is through the sale of its weapons to its allies. Selling weapon systems is a multi-dimensional activity. On the one hand, the US makes billions of dollars by selling weapons. On the other hand, by selling its weapon systems to its allies, the US enhances these countries’ dependence on the US. All of this is achieved, first and foremost, by selling the China-Russia threat to the world. It is, therefore, not surprising to see that ever since the beginning of tensions between Russia and Ukraine – which began because of the US push to expand NATO to Eastern Europe to encircle Russia – the US military-industrial complex’s finances have jumped massively.
As reports in the US media have indicated, ever since the breakout of the Russia-Ukraine war, market shares of major US military companies have jumped massively, with Lockheed Martin’s registering a growth of 25% while Raytheon’s shares have gained 16.4% in the same period. For these companies, the US-created crisis is, thus, a major business opportunity. This was indeed confirmed in so many words by James Taiclet, the CEO of Lockheed Martin himself.
On January 25, in an ‘earning call’ meeting with investors, the Lockheed CEO told his that,
“If you look at the evolving threat level and the approach that some countries are taking … especially Russia today, these days, and China, there’s renewed great power competition that does include national defense and threats to it … And the contribution we can make at LM is to increase the efficiency and the reliability of our products that we have today for our customer. And secondly, to try to bring this 21st century digital technology to the enterprise in a way that allows us to keep up with the adversaries while we’re developing even newer and more advanced systems.”
They are minting money already in ways that complement the overall political economy of the US. The US has been providing military assistance to Ukraine – weapon systems that are supplied directly by these companies. Military assistance worth millions of dollars being provided to Ukraine is part of the total aid package of $13.6 billion for Ukraine. This aid makes the US, on the one hand, the sole ‘protector’ of Europe, and on the other, paves the way for other countries to rely more and more on the US for their defence needs. As it stands, many countries in Europe – including Germany – have adjusted their defence policies. Germany is even buying F-35 jets, thus creating many more business opportunities for the US military-industrial complex.
The exponential growth the US military-industrial complex is experiencing is not tied to the Russia-Ukraine conflict alone. The US has been effectively selling the China threat to countries that are relevant, e.g., Australia.
As some recent reports indicate, Australia is all set to purchase more weapon systems from the US to shield itself against the ‘China threat.’ On April 5, Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton, referring to the ‘Russia-China threat’, said that they will be spending US$2.6 billion to increase Australia’s deterrence to potential adversaries. To quote him, “There was a working assumption that an act of aggression by China toward Taiwan might take place in the 2040s. I think that timeline now has been dramatically compressed.”
Given the so-called ‘imminent’ nature of the Chinese attack, Australia’s FA-18F Super Hornet fighter jets would be armed with improved U.S.-manufactured air-to-surface missiles by 2024.
In addition to this, Australia has also hired Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin to help build guided weapon systems in the country. As reports indicate, the Australian government is planning on spending US$761 million to build a system of guided missiles.
This partnership with the US military-industrial complex is in addition to AUKUS allies’ April 5 statement that showed cooperation in the field of “hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defense innovation.”
Importantly enough, this renewed cooperation comes against the backdrop of what the statement called “Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine”, showing how the US, alongside its time-tested ally, continues to sell the ‘Russian threat’ across the Pacific to maintain what the US calls a “free and open” Pacific Ocean.
However, as the details of the profits and contracts that the US companies are generating through these very crisis shows that, for the US, it is never about doing anything to maintain a ‘free’ system.’ On the contrary, it is always about benefiting the US, both geopolitically and economically.
More contracts for the US military companies means more business, which means more jobs for the Americans in those companies. The more these countries buy weapons from the US, the greater their reliance on the US for their defense and survival. This is how Washington aims to maintain its supremacy.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.