NZ Budget, Frigates or Families / Welfare or warfare?

The NZ Budget was released on Thursday, 16 May, and military spending has gone up by an unexpected 13.82% from last year, tragic. We published some comparative facts and figures in the GDAMS Aoteroa New Zealand index page and on Facebook.

The “centrepiece” of the Budget was a $493 million package for families, and as the Budget included a $446 million combat capability upgrade for the navy’s two frigates, the similarity of the amounts led to a ‘Frigates or Families?’ comparison. Our comments on the Budget – pre and post release – have been compiled into ‘Frigates or Families / Welfare or warfare? Comments on Budget 2014′.

Incidentally, the frigates’ combat capability upgrade also highlighted the NZ government’s ongoing complicity around nuclear weapons production – despite the Crown Financial Institutions divesting from Lockheed Martin some years ago because of its involvement in the production of nuclear weapons and cluster munitions, both banned under NZ law, the contract for the combat upgrade was awarded to Lockheed Martin Canada.

Source: Peace Movement Aotearoa,  17 May 2014

Paying for the Climate Change Pivot – world leaders can’t really fight climate change unless they slash military spending

We only have a few decades to deal with climate change. If humanity fails to cut back dramatically on carbon emissions by 2050, according to an alarming new UN report, our planet may warm past the point of our ability to fix the problem.

Given global dependence on oil, gas, and coal, weaning every economy from fossil fuels to save Mother Earth won’t come easy or cheap. Fortunately, there’s a big pot of money available to avert a climate catastrophe.

Accessing that money, however, requires cutting back on a different set of pollutants — the huge cache of weapons the world continues to produce.

Europe has trimmed its military spending and the Pentagon budget is leveling off. Yet other regions are burning through more cash to wage or gear up for war than they used to.

Military outlays are rising the most in Africa and the Middle East. And Asia surpassed Europe last year for the first time in terms of overall military spending.

The United States still faces no competition for its distinction as the world’s military spending champion. The Pentagon’s $640 billion tab amounted to more than a third of the $1.75 trillion in global military spending the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute itemized for 2013.

What does worldwide military excess have to do with today’s reliance on fossil fuels? Instead of investing in ways to slow global warming and adapt to a changing climate, too many nations are pouring money into weapons in an ongoing fight over the dwindling resources we haven’t quite used up yet.

There’s still time to pivot in a new direction. One big step governments, industries, and investors must take is to quadruple the money they’re pumping into sustainable alternatives to oil, gas, and coal.

Click here to read the complete article.

Global military spending trumps global aid

Russia and China are among the nations that are sharply increasing their military spending while contributions to global humanitarian aid decrease.

The possibility of rising U.S. and Russia-China tension, the Ukraine and Syrian crisis, the conflict in Africa particularly in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, the ongoing instability in the Middle East, the conflict between South-North Korea, all can speed up the armament race in the near future while global humanitarian aid slows down.

While the UN in 2013 and 2014 asked for almost $13bn to fund its humanitarian operations for a one year period, global military spending totaled $1.75 trillion in 2013 – 130 times higher than the planned humanitarian aid in 2013 and 2014.

The UN appeal for humanitarian aid for this year, which will be used for 52 million people in 17 countries, was the highest ever but not even close to the global military spending.

While global military spending in 2014 is in uptrend, the development on global humanitarian aid is totally different. The international humanitarian response fell by 8 percent from $19.4 billion in 2011 to $17.9 billion in 2012.

Click here to read the complete article.

Ukraine crisis prompts interest in military buys

The Ukrainian crisis that has already prompted Sweden to consider raising military spending is boosting interest in military hardware in other European states, Saab AB Chief Executive Hakan Buskhe said.

“The number of questions about enhancing defense capabilities from a handful of nations in continental Europe and also in the Nordic area have increased,” Mr. Bushke said in an interview. “The discussion about possibilities is more active today than just a couple of months ago.”

David Wajgras, chief financial officer of Raytheon Co., the world’s largest missile maker, also said this week that several countries were considering higher levels of military spending, including Latvia and Lithuania.

The Swedish government said on Tuesday that spending on defense should raise an extra 5.5 billion kronor ($836 million) and be spent on items such as submarines and Gripen combat planes that Saab builds. The government’s position is “a major mind shift,” Mr. Buskhe said Friday, cautioning that “to turn that into activities for us will take some time.”

Saab generated about 70% of sales outside Sweden in the first quarter that saw net income fall 33% to 176 million Swedish kronor after revenue in the first three months fell 10% to 5.3 billion kronor, the Stockholm-based company said in a statement Friday.

Click here to read the complete article.

Statement of Concern : The Continuing Surrender of Philippine Sovereignty

The 8th round of talks between the Philippine Department of National Defense (DnD) and the US Defense Department finalized the draft on Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries. This new agreement will be one of the highlights of U.S. Pres. Obama’s visit in the country at the end of the month.

Note that it was the US who drafted the document before the start of the talks last August 2013. Note too that the draft was never been made public. Each round of talks ended  by issuing motherhood statements like respect for Philippine constitution and laws, respect for the country’s sovereignty and  safeguard for the environment. The specific contents of the document were never revealed. The veil of secrecy of the talks and its outcome is a contrast to say the least with how the talks proceeded between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Until now, the US remains to be the dominant superpower in the country and continues to extend its influence on the affairs of the country. After the termination of US bases in 1991, both the US and the Philippine governments were already “considering ways to bring US troops back in the country on ‘mutually agreeable’ terms.” Political expediency dictates that US bases would not be built in the country for these were “perpetual symbols of colonization, foreign domination and infringement on Philippine sovereignty.”

On the same year, both agreed to pursue the bilateral exercise, “Balikatan” (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) along with customary military activities such as ship visits, aircraft transit, and US aid during Philippine natural disasters. In 1996, the annual Balikatan exercise was substantially larger than in previous years, and for the first time,  involved all branches of services from both countries including one Philippine and one US army brigade.

For the next two years, US and Philippine negotiators deliberated over what would become the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). With President Estrada’s imprimatur, the VFA was signed by the two countries in 1998 and ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999. The government described the VFA as the implementing agreement of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Circumventing the constitution, VFA did not clearly define how often and how long US forces were allowed to “visit”, or limit their scope of travel throughout the country.

By 2001, The US Joint Special Operations Task Force- Philippines (US JOSTF-P) was formed as part of the US’ Operation Enduring Freedom. It was directly under the US Pacific Command and made the whole of Mindanao as its operational area. The task force consists of rotating units of special forces of the U.S. Army and Air Force, Navy SEALS, Psychological Operations, and other U.S. military personnel. Since the middle of the last decade, an average of 500-600 JSOTF-P personnel (down from nearly 2,000 in 2003) are deployed in the country.

Now comes EDCA, a document described as anchored on the “mutuality of benefits”. Simply put, it is a new basing access arrangement for US troops. The new agreement will allow an increase of number of US troops in the country, allow US troops access to all Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) facilities and increase the pre-stationing or storage of US materials (weapons, ammunitions), aircraft, sea craft, land transport and all sorts of logistical supplies.

 The new agreement is also linked up in the building of the country’s minimum credible defense. Still, the new agreement does not commit the US to spend in modernizing the country’s defense especially with our expansive archipelagic territory.  It is the Philippine government that will spend on upgrading of former US military infrastructures and building of new ones in new sites for the use of US troops. The money will come solely from the national coffers, specifically from the budget for defense as well as from the presidential discretionary fund.  In other words, it is the people who will spend for the use and stay of US troops in our facilities.

The Filipino peoples subsidizing the presence of US troops in the whole country is indeed absurd. This new basing arrangement again shows that the Filipino people’s exercise of sovereignty continues to be curtailed and violated by the power relations imposed by the US as the real sovereign power over the Filipino people.

With this new challenge and situation, let us pool all our efforts to frustrate the latest maneuvers of the US infringing on our national sovereignty.

- Scrap VFA Movement