American weapons manufacturers profit from making Ukrainian conflict perpetual
Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts
On December 8, The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington hosted a reception in honor of the 31st anniversary of their Armed Forces. Interestingly, the invitation itself displayed the logos of major military contractors Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Pratt & Whitney as the event’s sponsors – right below the official Ukrainian emblems and the Ambassador’s name.
These are all American defense and arms corporations and some of the world’s largest weapons and aerospace manufacturers. Half of Lockheed Martin’s annual sales, for instance, are to the US Department of Defense. These four companies have in fact produced many of the anti-tank missiles and the missile defense systems Washington has been sending to Kiev this year. US President Joe Biden’s administration has committed around $19.3 billion so far in military assistance to Ukraine. The Ukrainian conflict has therefore been very good for the event sponsors’ businesses, even amid the supply chain issues related to the pandemic and semiconductors shortages.
Regarding the aforementioned logos, a think tank expert quoted by journalist Jonathan Guyer remarks that “It’s really bizarre to me that they would put that on an invitation.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow Mat Duss in turn says that “sustaining American popular support is absolutely essential for Ukraine’s continued defense. So Ukrainian diplomats should probably think harder about how it looks for them to be throwing parties with the defense contractors who are making bank off of this horrible war.”
Guyer writes on how Lockheed has announced that it will go from manufacturing 2,100 Javelin missiles a year to 4,000 (as they are highly on demand in Ukraine). The corporation’s stocks have climbed about 38% this year. President Biden himself, in May, told Lockheed’s workers at the company’s factory in Alabama that “you’re making it possible for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves without us having to risk getting in a third world war by sending in American soldiers fighting Russian soldiers. And every worker in this facility (…) is directly contributing to the case for freedom.”
Corporate interests in the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine are so blatant and obvious that some critics and activists have been calling it a McProxy War. Their importance is very well exemplified by the ambivalent role played by a billionaire such as Elon Musk, who could very well be called an American oligarch, even though the Western press only describes Russian billionaires this way. Musk itself is the very face of the convergence of Silicon Valley and defense contractors.
I’ve written on how Washington today wages an aggressive subsidy war (for US companies) against its own European allies. By prolonging the unwinnable conflict in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis in Europe (with the high energy costs), Washington thus renders their rival European companies uncompetitive. In this context, the US subsidies package turns out to be a nail in the coffin for Europe’s industry. I’ve also written on how, besides the more visible American geopolitical-military strategies aimed at encircling Russia, there is also a geoeconomic dispute and an energy angle to the crisis in Ukraine. Government corruption and private interests are entangled with US geopolitics and geoeconomics: Washington has always wanted to have Europeans buying American LNG and has always worked against any Russian-European gas cooperation.
One should add to this game the interests of defense contractors. The world of such contractors, including the Silicon Valley, and its key players is heavily interwoven with the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies. It in fact makes up not the only so-called “military-industrial complex”, as US President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it in his famous 1961 Farewell Address, but also the deep state. These two concepts are related and should be taken seriously. Conspiracy theories apart, according to political scientist George Friedman, there has been a US deep state inscribed in the country’s civil service since at least 1871 – and it has grown in size and power with the rise of independent agencies such as the CIA. University of Wisconsin–Madison historian Alfred W McCoy in turn claimed, in a 2017 interview to the Intercept, that since the September 11 terrorist attacks the US intelligence community responded in such a way that it “has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government” that is “in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so.”
Rutgers University-Camden associate professor of history Katherine C. Epstein, in her 2014 book “Torpedo: Inventing the Military-Industrial Complex in the United States and Great Britain” details the history of how, at the turn of the twentieth century, with the development of the self-propelled torpedo, both the US and the UK came up with a new paradigm by investing in private sector development and research. This changed property rights and national security legislations, thereby intersecting industrialization, geoeconomics and geopolitics.
Experts like Jenna Bednar and Mariano-Florentino Cuélla, who talk about the American “fractured superpower”, and like Nina Hachigian, who coined to term “formestic” to describe the intertwining of foreign and domestic policy, have focused on the role played by subnational actors such as US cities and States in shaping Washington’s foreign policy. However, much attention must also be paid to private corporations and contractors interests as well as its close relations with the US agencies, that is, the American industrial-military complex and its deep state.
The aforementioned four weapons corporations are not just logos in a Ukrainian embassy’s invitation. They are part of a complex web of interests and they too shape Washington’s foreign policy. To sum it up, they have much to gain from US proxy wars – even at the expense of global peace.
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