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Democrat April-May 2000 (Number 43)

Military industrial complex

Brian Denny reports on the latest moves

People do not want the Military Industrial Complex

Competing Military-industrial complexes in the United States and the European Union are "fighting to the death" to dominate the world arms trade, according to a chief executive of Matra BAe Dynamics.

The latest battle royale in this bitter war is over whether British prime minister Blair will buy the European Meteor air-to-air missile to arm the Eurofighter or go with US firm Raytheon's missile in a billion pound contract.

DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa) Chief Executive Manfred Bischoff demanded that Britain opt for Europe's Meteor missile when London makes a forthcoming decision in April.

Mr Bischoff said that a decision by Britain to go American could have dire consequences for the ludicrously expensive Eurofighter - the £50 billion fighter programme developed by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In opting for an American solution, London would give the United States a chance to veto future sales of Eurofighter and this could favour sales of their own combat aircraft," Bischoff said. Astonishingly, Mr Bischoff claimed that losing the deal would mean a loss of something called "European Sovereignty." He said that a "European aircraft needs a European armament."

After years of eurofanatics claiming that "sovereignty" was an outdated concept, a leading arms corporation is demanding that "European" sovereignty must be defended.

Competing against Raytheon for the contract is Matra-BAE Dynamics, a joint venture between Britain's BAE Systems and France's Aerospatiale Matra, itself in the process of merging with Dasa to form EADS. The United States has lobbied fiercely on Raytheon's behalf, offered to share missile technology with Britain, and claimed a decision in the US firm's favour could help reduce the technology gap between European and US NATO forces.

The head of Raytheon's British subsidiary Peter McKee put it more bluntly: "There is no way on earth the Pentagon is going to let any country outgun the US."

While Mr Bischoff said that US limits on technology transfer and the closed nature of the US arms market made it absolutely crucial for Europe to defend its own arms industry.

Matra BAe Dynamics executive Alan Garwood admitted that this latest battle between the world's biggest arms dealers "could not be more significant."

"Every defence decision now is a big one. We're fighting to the death," he said.

EU leaders have demanded that Blair buy the European Meteor missile in order to prove his "good European" credentials.

Mr Blair may well go for the Meteor to appease Brussels and then appease Washington by buying C-17 military transport planes from Lockheed Martin in preference to a similar plane from Airbus Industrie.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Mr Blair would rather appease the arms gaints and the warmongers in Washington and Brussels rather than reflect the views of the vast majority of the people of Britain who want peace and national democracy.