Voltaire Network

When it comes to military expenditure, Italy can hold its head high

It appears from Sipri’s (the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) Annual Statement on International Arms Trade that there has been a sharp increase in Italian exports during 2016. This result must be read in the context of Washington’s repeated request to its Nato members to increase their military expenditure; a request repeated yet again by President Trump, strongly encouraging his NATO allies to follow through with it.

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“Italy is participating with its head held high in the Atlantic Alliance in which it is the fifth largest contributor and has confirmed that it aims to reach the target of spending 2% of its GDP on military matters”.

So announced Gentiloni, the President of the Council, on 27 April, when he received Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary-General, at Rome.

He has thus repeated what he has already told US President Trump, namely, that he is “proud of Italy’s financial contribution to the Alliance’s security”, and will ensure that, “notwithstanding certain budgetary constraints, Italy will make good on its undertaking”.

The data on global military expenditure that Sipri has just published, confirmed that Gentiloni has reason to be walking proudly with his head held high: when it comes to military expenditure, Italy’s global ranking is now number 11, with spending sharply spiking to 27.9 billion dollars in 2016. Calculated in euro, this corresponds to an average daily expenditure of around 70 million. To this figure, other heads must be added which fall outside the Defense’s budget. These include military missions abroad. However under US pressure, Nato wants Italy to get to the point that its military expenditure comes to 2% of its GDP. This translates to around 100 million euro per day. On this, Trump has been patently clear. When he received Gentiloni at the White House, Trump refers to this matter in an interview to the Associated Press and said to Gentiloni, “Come on, you have to pay…”. And in the interview, Trump announced confidently: “He will pay”. Yet it is not Gentiloni that will pay but the vast majority of Italians, directly or indirectly, when the social welfare budget is slashed.

However it is blatantly obviously who holds the winning hand. In 2016, Italian exports in arms increased by more than 85% when compared to 2015, rising to 14.6 billion euro. A genuine boom, largely attributable, to the sale of 28 Eurofighter bombers to Kuwait, that becomes the number one importer of Italian arms. A mega-contract for 8 billion euro, for which Minister Pinotti, an efficient dealer of arms [1] must take the credit. This is the biggest order ever obtained by Finmeccanica, into whose bank account half of the eight billion has been deposited. Guaranteed by a four billion loan by a pool of banks, including UniCredito and Intesa Sanpaolo, and Sace of the Group Cassa depositi e prestiti.

And so confirmed is Finmeccanica’s reversal back into a player in the arms industry. This brings windfall gains for the major shareholders: in the classification of the 100 biggest global, military industrials, drawn up by Sipri, Finmeccanica is ranked the global number 9 with an arms sale that is worth 9.3 billion dollars, which represents two thirds of its global turnover.

The company increases both its turnover and profits, targeting industrials that include the following:
• Oto Melara, which manufactures arms systems for use on land and at sea (including Centuaro, the armoured vehicle, with the fire-power of a tank, and Vulcani canons with guided ammunition sold to more than 55 navies in the world);
• Wass, the global leader in silo-manufacturing (including the long-range Black Shark);
• Mbda, the global leader in missile-manufacture (including the anti-ship Marte and the air-to-air Meteor); and
• Alenia Aermacchi that, in addition to manufacturing warships (such as the M-346 fighter plane for training supplied in advance to Israel), manages Faco di Cameri, the plant chosen by the Pentagon to centralize the F-35 fighter planes that are now lined up in Europe.

Who cares that Finmeccanica – is flouting “The Treaty on Arms Sales” that prohibits supplying weapons that can be used against civilian – and supplies arms to countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia - countries which are massacring civilians in Yemen? As established in the “White Book for International Security and Defense” a signature piece of Minister Pinotti, now converted into a draft law, military industry must be “the cornerstone of the Country System “Sistema Paese”. Why so? Because “it contributes through exports, to rebalancing the trade balance, promoting products for national industry in highly paid sectors”, creating “posts for qualified work”.

Who cares that we spend public money, more than 70 million euro per day, on the military? Who cares that this figure keeps getting bigger? What is absolutely necessary, declares the White Book, is that Italy is capable of protecting, wherever may be necessary, “the Country’s vital interests”. More precisely, the vital interests of those who grow rich with the war.

Anoosha Boralessa

Il Manifesto (Italy)

[1] “Nuclear Red Alert”, by Manlio Dinucci, Translation Roger Lagassé, Il Manifesto (Italy) , Voltaire Network, 28 February 2016.

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