Arms trade

Ludwig von Gress

You would be pleased to learn that a serious problem is just about to be solved, since on the 2nd April this year the General Assembly of the United Nations overwhelmingly approved a treaty. What problem, you may ask? By now the United Nations has approved treaties and passed resolutions against just about all the evils of the world, so what was omitted? Well, obviously – a trade in death and human suffering in which people and states we don’t like so unscrupulously engage.

The arms trade is estimated to amount to US$70 billion a year. That seems to be rather low. As expected, the USA dollar number tops the exports, though the combined Russia and Ukraine exports easily beat that. The figures are imprecise for various reasons, starting from the understandable secrecy down to the fact that just about any vehicle without a machine gun is classified as an ambulance. Perhaps, as you do with the official unemployment figure, you ought to double it.

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will come to force 90 days after the 50th country has ratified it – expected to happen this year. The Obama administration is all for it; fast and furiously, one could say. Perhaps the Mexican drug cartels have all they need by now. China, Russia and Ukraine declined to sign, and so have the big weapons importers Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt; and smaller ones like Cuba and Venezuela.

ATT requires the participating states to regulate imports and exports in eight main categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light weapons.

Australia ought to be safe then, but, as it is often said, “devil is in the details” and our arms exporters should check the fine print to see whether boomerangs are included in the last category. Or perhaps no need to worry; 99.9% of boomerangs sold in Australia are mass produced in China, and that country takes no notice of any silly round-eyes’ regulations, agreed to or not.

The participating states are expected to assess whether the transfer of any of those weapons could lead to serious violations of international humanitarian laws, terrorism or organised crime; and to take into account the risk of serious acts of violence against civilians, particularly women and children. (This seems to be another blatant example of misandry prevailing in the UN.)

The best is to come, and it is the crux of the matter: States must report on all their arms transfers to a UN-run “implementation support unit” annually.

I envisage that Solomon Islands will have to employ at least two additional civil servants to prepare a report on the number of battle tanks and warships it did not export or import that year and list all missing mass destruction coconuts. Those public servants will undoubtedly require UN subsidy.

It must be obvious even to the dullest UN bureaucrat that the treaty is useless, but it is equaly obvious to him or her that there is another opportunity for promotion, perks and employement for his or her family. The fruitless United Nations bureaucracy is bloating out of control, achieving less and less and consuming more and more. Our politicians do not pay for it. We do. Time to do something about it. Or them.


About Ludwig von Gress

Born in communist Europe, interested in defence matters on a macro scale, with a cavalry “devil may care spirit” from his grandfather and cautious effectiveness of asymmetric warfare approach from his guerilla father. He sometimes despairs that he may be the only one taking the defence of Australia seriously.
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