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Analysis: Armament makes world insecure

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Stefan Nicola
Berlin (UPI) Jun 3, 2008
A group of German security and peace researchers warns that current armament tendencies may pose greater threats to the world than the Cold War did.

The growing amount of money spent on weapons and wars "nurtures mutual distrust, points to illusions when it comes to military conflict solutions, and hasn't been contained by either effective armament control or a watchful public," Andreas Heinemann-Grueder of the Bonn International Center for Conversion said Tuesday in Berlin at the official presentation of the Peace Report 2008, which looks at international conflicts around the world and is compiled by Germany's five leading peace research institutes.

While the United States accounts for roughly half of the world's $1 billion-plus annual military budget, expenditures rose most quickly in states in Central and South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. Besides the world's largest military powers (next to the United States, they are Britain, France, China and Japan), countries like India, Russia, Pakistan, Chile and Colombia are also investing more in their armed forces.

This may be more dangerous than the decades-long Cold War conflict, the experts said.

"The old East-West conflict was bipolar, it was armament between two blocs, and Washington and Moscow were able to control each other relatively effectively," Heinemann-Grueder said. "Today we have armament by several different players, without any functioning control mechanisms."

The report mainly criticizes the outgoing U.S. government for what the experts said are hegemonic tendencies that have sparked greater armament and thus insecurity all over the world.

"Whoever strives for military superiority sparks military countermeasures," the experts concluded.

Non-proliferation mechanisms are "in shambles," the experts said, because they are undermined by established nuclear powers who not only fail to downsize their arsenals but even modernize them, thus showing insecure states that nuclear weapons are still a viable military option.

The experts also cited the "Iraq effect": States feel they are protected from an imposed regime change "a la Iraq" only if they possess nuclear weapons. The likes of Iran need only look to the example of North Korea to be further encouraged to acquire the bomb.

Washington, and in particular the new U.S. president, thus should give up forced regime changes and try to "win partners with new ideas and attractive policies."

Experts added that European governments should push not only for greater disarmament in Washington but also for diplomacy instead of military muscle-flexing.

As a first, Washington should start talking to Iran to prevent the club of nuclear powers becoming even bigger.

"If you have no relations, it's impossible to pursue diplomacy," said Reinhard Mutz of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.

Jochen Hippler of the Institute for Development and Peace at Duisburg-Essen University said a full-scale U.S.-led war against Iran currently was out of the question; for the future, however, he did not want to rule out single airstrikes against strategic Iranian targets in case the conflict with Tehran further aggravates.

In Europe, there also are a few issues to be resolved, the experts said.

The German government, so far cautiously supportive of a U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe, should lobby against it, the experts said, because the system further destabilized relations with Russia and thus posed a security risk, instead of a benefit, to Europe. Berlin also should push for getting rid of the estimated 150 nuclear warheads in Europe, as many as 20 of which could be in Germany.

The former German government led by Gerhard Schroeder tried to talk to Washington to abolish the warheads in Germany, but because of a "rather brusque" American rejection, negotiations on the issue were soon dropped, according to Mutz.

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has improved ties to Washington in her nearly three years in office, should reopen that chapter.

"This would have symbolic importance," Mutz said.

Yet of course the Europeans aren't without faults themselves: Several European states, including Germany, are exporting into countries that are unstable and unfree, the experts found, adding that the EU codex for weapons exports is being largely ignored.

"The codex thus has to become a code of conduct binding for all member states," the report concluded.

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