The $400 billion debt enforcers


THE COST of a single Stealth bomber-over $2 billion-is twice the total value of a year's output of the economy of Albania, the poorest country in the Balkans. That one fact highlights the obscene priorities of the rulers of the world's most powerful states. NATO is spending billions of pounds bombing Serbia and Kosovo. At the same time Western bankers are squeezing the countries of the Balkans and many of the poorest parts of the world. By doing so they are creating mass poverty and insecurity-laying down the conditions for more nationalist conflicts and wars on every continent.

Total spending on arms by the 19 NATO countries is phenomenal. It stands at over $465 billion every year. That is more than the amount spent on health and education for nearly half the world's population. The same NATO countries spend less than $35 billion a year on international aid. Much of that aid is linked to arms sales to brutal regimes like Turkey and Indonesia. NATO accounts for nearly 60 percent of the total spending on arms worldwide.

The US spends $270 billion on arms a year-a third of the world total. That is about equal to the total economic production of India-home to one fifth of humanity. Western banks have squeezed billions from the Balkan countries, creating an economic disaster. Yet just a fraction of NATO arms spending could have relieved people's suffering. That would have left little room for nationalist politicians to scapegoat minorities for economic collapse.


  • Harrier jet: $24,000 an hour
  • Tornado jet: $32,000 an hour
  • Cruise missile: $1 million each
  • 12,000 troops: $4.8 million a day
  • AWACS early warning plane: $160,000 an hour
  • Challenger II tank: $3.5 million each

Looking East

THE THREE Eastern European countries that have recently joined NATO have had to increase their military spending. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have to devote 3 percent of their economic output to buying weapons. That means buying over $20 billion of new planes, missiles and other hardware from Western arms companies.

Clinton's new 'Star Wars'

THE WORLD has entered a new arms race. Global arms spending has been rising since 1996 and is projected to climb further over the next decade-even in those parts of the world gripped by economic crisis. A dozen or more disputes between countries on each continent are moving closer to the outbreak of full scale war. A series of countries have massively expanded their military forces in a bid to be the dominant powers in their own regions over the last two decades.

The key US ally in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, is now the biggest importer of arms in the world. Its military spending is four times that of Iraq and Iran combined. US backed South Korea spends three times as much on arms as its rival, North Korea. India and Pakistan have spent tens of billions of pounds developing nuclear weapons and the missiles needed to drop them on each other's major cities. Greece and Turkey have boosted arms spending as they vie for supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean.

But the biggest force behind the new deadly arms race is the US and its NATO allies. After the collapse of the Russian bloc and the end of the Cold War, the US embarked on a new defence strategy. Unlike the Warsaw Pact, NATO did not dissolve itself but pushed its boundaries further into Eastern Europe. The US decided to develop the capacity to fight "two major regional conflicts" anywhere in the world simultaneously. It used propaganda about the dangers of "rogue states" like Iraq and North Korea to justify building a force which could intervene anywhere in the world.

The scale of US arms spending is far greater than what it needs to crush these regimes. Most of the US military is still deployed within easy reach of Russia and China. These two countries are far poorer than the US but have nuclear weapons and considerable military machines. They are the US's most serious military rivals and hope to carve out their own spheres of influence. Now the US is rekindling the arms race between these powers.

Clinton is proposing his own version of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" programme which led to the highest arms spending in peacetime in the 1980s. The new Anti Ballistic Missile system is projected to cost at least $100 billion. It is supposed to insulate the US from nuclear attack-at the same time as the US is still capable of destroying the rest of the world many times over. Developing the system would mean ripping up an international treaty against building such counter-missile weapons. It would also give the US a "first strike" capability and would force Russia and China to build their own versions of the system. That can only make conflict between the major powers more likely.

The US's attempt to impose its will across the globe has already led to one sided slaughter in wars against small countries like Iraq and Serbia. But such conflicts also hold the seeds of even more bloody confrontations between the big imperialist powers.

Scrap this debt



ARMS COMPANIES are closely intertwined with NATO governments. They are a major force pushing for increased arms spending and the expansion of NATO. They make enormous profits. The biggest death merchants are:

The share prices of Raytheon had risen by 17 percent and British Aerospace's by 43 percent one month into NATO's bombing of the Balkans.