The Arsenal of Autocracy

Roundup
tags: weapons, militarism, Defense Industry

These are good times to be an arms maker.  Not only are tens of billions of dollars in new military spending headed for the coffers of this country’s largest weapons contractors, but they’re being praised as defenders of freedom and democracy, thanks to their role in arming Ukraine to fight the Russians. The last time the industry gained such a sterling reputation was during World War II when it was lauded as the “arsenal of democracy” for fueling the fight against fascism. 

Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes recently underscored this point in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. While discussing how he should respond to criticism of his company benefiting from a rise in sales right now, he said:

“Look, we don’t apologize for making these systems, making these weapons. The fact is, they are incredibly effective in deterring and dealing with the threat that the Ukrainians are seeing today… I think again recognizing that we are there to defend democracy and the fact is eventually we will see some benefit in the business over time.” 

Indeed, Raytheon will “see some benefit” from the war “over time.”  The company produces the Stinger anti-aircraft missile and co-produces (with Lockheed Martin) the Javelin anti-tank missile, both of which Washington has provided to Ukraine by the thousands.  Now, the companies will be handsomely reimbursed as the Pentagon moves to replenish its stockpiles of those systems. Those sales, in turn, will bolster Hayes’s annual $23 million compensation package, which grew by 11% in 2021. It will undoubtedly only rise more as the company is showered with new contracts tied to Ukraine and other global conflicts.

Raytheon is, of course, anything but the only major arms manufacturer reaping financial and reputational benefits from the war in Ukraine. Earlier this month, President Biden singled out Lockheed Martin for special praise when he toured the Alabama facility where it produces those Javelin missiles. It was part of his effort to promote tens of billions of dollars in new aid for Ukraine and transform himself into a war president.

These days, even arms industry CEOs are having their moment in the sun as media stars.  On Mother’s Day, for instance, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet was featured on CBS’s Face the Nation. Because of the softball questions served up by interviewer Margaret Brennan, media critic Dan Froomkin at Responsible Statecraft described the segment all too accurately as an “infomercial.”  Taiclet used the opportunity to tout the rise of global tensions as a remarkable long-term business opportunity for his company:

“Well, we’re planning for the long run and not just in the Javelin, because this situation, the Ukraine conflict, has highlighted a couple of really important things for us. One is that we need to have superior systems in large enough numbers… We know that there’s going to be increased demand for those kinds of equipment, too, because the threat between Russia and China is just going to increase even after the Ukraine war [that] we hope is over soon. Those two nations and, regionally, Iran and North Korea are not going to get less active. Probably they’re going to get more active. So we want to make sure we can supply our allies and our country what they need to defend against that.”

Read entire article at TomDispatch