Armed to the Teeth and Vulnerable?
Today a number of world organizations spearheaded by the UN advocate for the weapons-free society around the world. International community split into two major camps regarding the issue: the ones forecasting arms-free utopia for all and those preaching for everyone to have a gun under their pillow. The hardest question to answer is which one is really which?
“Beneath their benign ‘Heidi’ image the Swiss have never trumpeted the fact of their military preparedness,” reads the “TARGET SWITZERLAND: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II” book by Ph. D. Stephen P. Halbrook, attorney at law. The book, as the author describes it, was meant to open the eyes of those, who never thought that the small mountain country of Switzerland was “a nation of shooters, fully prepared to turn the Alps into a deathtrap for the panzers, if the Germans had dared to attempt a conquest”.
Even today with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and in the world Switzerland, the country of almost 8 million, had some 1.2-3 million units of fire arms stored at private homes in 2001. Most adult males in Switzerland are trained to operate shotguns, and Swiss kids gladly visit shooting ranges, dotting the country’s landscape. Yet most of the world perceives Switzerland as an overwhelmingly peaceful nation, granted its neutral status during the WWII and the purple cows of the Swiss chocolate brand.
Such weapons related policy would be heavens to some Americans, who support the “right to bear arms”, introduced by nation’s forefathers. Diane Denizen, the U.S. citizen, recently commented that “there can never be arms free world where one entity is allowed by Statute to threaten another be it a nation or a human”. Diane also argued that shortage of arms in public hands had its say in all the recent wars. “Myself, I would feel safer in my home knowing that my neighbors had guns in the home and they were trained to use them both responsibly and correctly,” resumed Ms. Denizen. On the contrary, unlike the U.S., school shooting is unheard of in Switzerland.
Going from the level of individuals to the state level, USA is the world’s leading conventional weapons exporter: the cradle of democracy accounted for 30 percent of global arms exports in 2006-2010. On a global level, while the UN thrives for sustainable disarmament, military expenditures around the world exceeded USD 1.5 trillion (only being an official figure) in 2010. And while nations voluntarily chip in for the Institute for Disarmament Research, world trade in arms flourishes. Recently Norway’s representative at the UN Disarmament Commission General Assembly Knut Langeland pointed out “the growing impatience on how to get rid of the most destructive and inhumane weapons ever created”. Rightly so.
Apart from conventional weapons, the U.S. is estimated to have 8,500 nuclear warheads – number one weapon of mass destruction. Another world power – Russia – is reported to have around 10,000 warheads; France is believed to possess 300, China - 240, and the UK - 225 warheads (all the numbers are estimate). Interestingly, all the five countries are members of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1970) – another international tool that proved useless. As for the non-member countries of the treaty: Israel is suspected to have 80 devices, though it neither confirms nor denies having any, Pakistan – 90-110 nukes, India – 80-100 warheads.
It is believed that North Korea has enough material to produce 10 nuclear devices. The recent unsuccessful rocket launch in North Korea has stirred the global society. While the head of the U.S. missile defense program downgraded the launch attempt, saying that it showed the country’s lack of progress in its spaceflight program, I am definite that Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly was praying along with the rest of the world when North Korean rockets took off the ground in 1998, 2006 and 2009 as well as the current year.
At the same time, such third world countries as Pakistan and Syria possess nuclear stocks, hanging over the heads of world’s population as the sword of Damocles. India, Pakistan’s neighbor fearing its possible military assault as well as China’s, steps up its military supplies, too. Being number one conventional weapons importer (Russian deliveries accounted for 82 percent of the imports, according to SIPRI) India has succeeded in testing its longest range nuclear capable missile.
On the other hand, Eastern European Ukraine of some 46 million is devoted to ridding itself from nuclear and conventional weapons. Having inherited its stock from the Soviet times, the country has already disposed of 15 tons of ammunition (400,000 units) in 2006-2011 under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. In 2010-2012 Ukraine removed of all of its enriched uranium stock – a total of 234 kilograms – from its territory. Ukraine’s intentions are easy to explain: setting an example (Chile and Mexico chose to follow Ukraine’s lead); reassuring its non-nuclear status; saving on military budget by not having to protect its weaponry. At the same time all of the military devices Ukraine is ridding itself of would not stand a chance against theoretical assaults of the U.S., Russia, and the rest of nuclear states.
So with the number of weapons-related defense strategies being pursued around the world, smaller countries can either rely on their reputation and the ‘citizen army’ or the chance that bigger states would protect them should the conflict arise. Bigger states preach for demilitarization while concentrating weapons in their hands, selling them to whomever pays more, for the trade in arms is too profitable to abort.
Originally published by the Lithuania Tribune