The Guardian February 23, 2000


Arms giants slug it out

by Brian Denny

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 decision 
in April.

Bischoff said that a decision by Britain to go American could have dire 
consequences for the ludicrously expensive Eurofighter  the L50 billion 
fighter program 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 the Eurofighter and this could favour sales 
of their own combat aircraft", Bischoff said.

Bischoff said that a "European aircraft needs a European armament" and 
claimed that losing the deal would mean a loss of "European Sovereignty".

He 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.

After years of eurofanatics claiming that "sovereignty" was an outdated 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.

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

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.

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 giants and the warmongers in Washington and Brussels than reflect the 
views of the vast majority of the people of Britain who want peace and 
national democracy above corporate dictats.

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Morning Star

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