Discover more from Spoils of War
The War That Feeds Us
Ukraine is All Profit (Except For Ukrainians.)
Bearing in mind the old adage that the U.S. government has two functions: to buy arms at home and sell arms abroad, it is worth examining the balance sheet for America's proxy war in Ukraine. On the theoretically minus side, there is the impressive total of $54 billion in aid promised or already delivered in various forms to our embattled ally. The largest component of the total is the $40 billion aid package voted through by congress in May, of which just over $20 billion is for military aid that will be drawn upon when required. But the money really belongs in the plus column, since the bulk of it will never leave the U.S., flowing instead to the gaping coffers of the military services as compensation for weapons and equipment turned over to the Ukrainians, and thereafter passed on to defense contractors for replacement systems, for example the $624 million contract just handed to Raytheon Technologies by the U.S. Army to replace 1,300 Stinger missiles previously shipped to Ukraine from army stocks.
Sterling Performance by U.S. Arms Merchants
However, in addition to these billions flowing to the military-industrial complex at home, we should add the striking success of U.S. arms merchants in the NATO market abroad.
As of June this year alone, according to the helpful website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, they have garnered at least $35 billion in contracts - a haul abetted initially by the threat and then the reality of Putin's predictable aggression. Thus Germany, having for years resisted U.S. demands to spend more on defense (read: "spend more on U.S. weapons") finally agreed in March to lash out $4 billion or more (the final bill is always more) on 35 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters. (The "Lightning" name is ironic, since it cannot take off within twenty five miles of a thunder storm for fear of lightning strikes.) As caveat, we should note that Lockheed may perhaps have trouble getting the money, since the ongoing economic war with Russia, with consequent disruption to supplies of Russian gas on which Germany's economy is utterly reliant, may well bankrupt the country well before the first Lightning is delivered. Meanwhile Berlin's eagerness to purchase goodwill where it counts in Washington has been more than matched by the Finns, who have signed on for no fewer than sixty four F-35s with a tab somewhere north of $8 billion, and the Canadians, who have put themselves on the hook for eighty eight planes at a cost of $15 billion.
Just Why Would Anyone Buy a Lightning?
Just how these various governments have been persuaded to beggar themselves buying a plane that has yet to pass its legally mandated operational tests in the U.S., and which can perform its missions, according to the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, only just over half the time, is a mystery that surely warrants far-reaching investigation similar to the 1970s Church committee hearings that revealed Lockheed's unseemly sales practices in selling an earlier fighter, the F-104, to NATO in the 1950s. The buyers appear to have paid little attention to the Pentagon test director's admission that among the plane's 845 "unresolved deficiencies" are no less than six "design flaws [that] may cause death, severe injury, or severe occupational illness; may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system" along with other unwelcome mishaps.
$20 Billion in “Aid” + $35 Billion in Sales = Fat Profit
Though the F-35 sales dwarf other 2022 NATO deals, the latter still add up to a tidy sum. The Poles are on the hook for $6 billion worth of M1A2 Abrams tanks, the Bulgarians have committed to paying $1.6 billion for forty F-16 fighters (at least that's a plane that works.) Spain is buying $950 million worth of M-60 helicopters; the British will pay $700 million for ballistic missile defense radars; the French are in line for $300 million worth of Reaper drones, and so on down a long list of equipment on which U.S. allies are as reliant for their militaries as their economies are for Russian oil and gas. All in all, Cold War II, as amplified by the hot war in Ukraine, is turning out to be a very profitable venture.
Therefore, as the sign observed in a California Lockheed plant during the Vietnam war proclaimed: "Don't knock the war that feeds you." Ordinary Ukrainians might have a different view, but who is asking them?