The Pentagon is fueling the global arms race


Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with U.S. Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, December 23, 2021. /VCG

Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with U.S. Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, December 23, 2021. /VCG

Editor’s note: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain, a former visiting fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington and a former research fellow at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, is a television presenter at Indus News in Pakistan. The article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of CGTN.

In the face of rising global food prices, widespread hunger and economic disruption, the world cannot afford further militarization. The Ukraine crisis has shown that de-escalation, dialogue and disarmament are the keys to solving global conflicts.

Yet the Pentagon continues to fuel the global arms race by investing in hypersonic missile testing and securing billions of dollars in defense equipment. The flimsy premise on which it is developing its new missile defense network weakens the international security order, and its anti-China orientation exposes America’s lack of commitment to non-proliferation efforts.

The United States, which has often touted the cause of global disarmament, is taking actions to the contrary. This includes investing in technologies with a high degree of unpredictability and maneuverability, such as hypersonic missiles, which can change flight course easily, operate at lower atmospheric levels, and fly at five times the speed of sound.

Washington’s testing of these missiles allows the United States to evade traditional defense systems as offensive weapons, jeopardizing the global security environment and threatening deterrence. The narrative, promoted by the Pentagon but with the approval of the US Congress, says such capabilities are critical to American defenses. That’s wrong.

The US Capitol is seen from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC, the United States, March 30, 2022. /VCG

The US Capitol is seen from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC, the United States, March 30, 2022. /VCG

For example, the test of an air-breathing hypersonic missile conducted on July 19, 2022 followed on from other tests conducted with hardware built by Lockheed Martin. The tests have an anti-China bias as the Department of Defense responded to continued pressure from members of the US Congress who fear they are losing to their “opponents” while the US loses its status as the world’s most advanced military.

This rivalry approach on the international stage aims only to establish American dominance in the arms race, but also weakens American disarmament rhetoric towards other states like Iran, which it seeks to contain through sanctions and non-compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal .

The space domain is not spared either. Rather than using it for exploration, research and development, the Pentagon is attempting to position a significant number of heat-sensing satellites that will orbit at both low and mid-altitudes to monitor the direction of hypersonic missiles. Missile warning and missile tracking systems also aim to improve operability and are an attempt to ensure precision and accuracy in the wake of a possible enemy attack.

This does not contribute to confidence-building measures, nor can it be considered a defensive technique. Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency, has described the space area as a war zone with American satellites specially designed to track next-generation threats. The threats are also concocted and not imminent, which Article 51 of the UN Charter states is a requirement for a country’s self-defense.

There is no such precedent in American history where satellites were designed to track other countries’ military arsenals. There are 28 such satellites that were contractually announced in July 2022, but the satellites’ offensive orientation casts doubt on Washington’s constructive use of space. As Tournear said, resilience can be achieved through proliferation, but the cost to American taxpayers remains disproportionate. A satellite costs about $50 million with a five-year shelf life.

The fact that satellites will also need to be replaced is putting additional strain on the US economy, as geopolitical tensions and dwindling domestic consumer confidence already point to an imminent recession in 2022. Repeated investment in wide-ranging surveillance projects while ignoring high domestic inflationary pressures will only expose the Biden administration‘s misguided priorities of promoting militarization and failing to address domestic economic crises.

The practice of encouraging defense CEOs to accelerate the development of hypersonic missiles will only benefit America’s military-industrial complexes.

Therefore, this is a flawed approach to state and global security, and the Pentagon’s strategic vision only contributes to the global arms race.

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