The latest guest post by up-and-coming young writer Adam Brosnan is a challenging and illustrative piece on the global arms trade and the NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence.
The US habitually voices their disdain for NATO member states not contributing their ‘fair share’ to defence, yet has, and continues to sell state of the art weaponry to non-member states. This counterintuitive foreign policy has a detrimental effect by forcing all nations to increase contributions to defence to defend against possible future threats. This capitalist – profit at all costs – modus operandi undermines a key concept in game theory; The Nash Equilibrium.
The Nash Equilibrium (1950) is central to game theory, economics, and social interaction, yet it has not been adequately applied to global sales of conventional weaponry. For those reading who may not have a fully developed understanding of game theory, consider this real life example: tobacco sales in the 80s were well established with competing companies spending the required amount to maintain their share of the market, which not only attracted new custom, but also pushes back on competitors by diluting their advertising efforts. This system is said to have reached an equilibrium.
This is further demonstrated by the tobacco companies remaining at an equilibrium even after the enactment of The Advertising & Promotion Act in 2002, which forbade such companies from advertising. This is because the companies had harmonised their marketing efforts at zero, thus maintaining their share of the market they commanded before the new regulation came into effect.
As with tobacco companies, each country contributes a percentage of their GDP towards defence to maintain current military standing in the world, and fend off competition. Unlike tobacco companies, global warfare has a self-appointed moderator that parades as a beacon of morality, while monetarising peace and laundering it into weaponry.
Each member state is to spend 2% of GDP on defence – this is not a strictly enforced, but it is a required target; in 2016, five member states reached the threshold (US – 3.61%; Greece – 2.38; UK – 2.21; Estonia – 2.16; Poland – 2.00).
The US, by far, exceeds the 2% target, and in 2017 have pledged an extra $50,000,000,000 towards defence spending – a sum more than the total of the next top seven defence spenders.
Keeping in line with past US presidents, Trump vocalised US concern for NATO member states’ not paying their fair share, warning that the US would ‘moderate its commitment to the alliance’ if this issue was not addressed. On February 15th the Defence Secretary, James Mattis, reiterated the despicable prospect of the US not honouring its NATO allies in the event of a non-member attack.
However, these confrontational insults are completely undermined by the US because they actively arm NATO member states and non-member states. This perpetual arming of all nations prevents the global arms market from reaching the equilibrium seen in tobacco markets.
To condense all these deals and explore the intricacies of each would be an unfathomable task. Therefore, the remainder of this article will focus on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the most recent deal being worth $110,000,000,000. Additionally, the ethics of selling weaponry to known human rights abusers is morally bankrupt and should not be ignored – especially when taking into consideration that Saudi Arabia has been found to bankroll various terror groups claiming responsibility for Western terror.
The US argues that this is deal creates a strategic alliance that is in the Wests’ best interest because it prevents Russia becoming defensively allied with the oil-rich kingdom. However, as already briefly touched upon, selling arms to non-member states only increases the possible future threat to NATO member states, thereby driving up the required military spending needed for each country to maintain its commitment to the alliance in the event of invoking Article 5 – which has only ever been invoked in the past by the US after the 9/11 attacks.
Without delving into the nuances of each non-member state arms deal, it seems audacious that the only nation to call on other member states for help in the past – via Article 5- is threatening those who fail to reach military spending targets. When in fact, it is the US foreign policy and arms sales themselves that are increasing the potential threats that would require increased military spending to begin with. It seems as though it is the NASH disequilibrium that rules the global arms market.
Perhaps Trump is right in calling NATO obsolete – there is a cancer growing among allied ranks that has become too big to remove and much too stubborn to treat from within.
*The US is not the only guilty party, but they are certainly the guiltiest. If they want to be leaders of the free world, perhaps they should lead by example*