Sep 07, 2020

Post COVID-19 world needs new regional alliances not “failed UN”

“Governments should stop spending billions of dollars on weapons and protect citizens from the real threats they face.” wrote Denise Garcia an associate professor of political science and international affairs, a vice chair of the “International Committee for Robot Arms Control and a member of “International Panel for the Regulation of Autonomous Weapons”.

In her article in “” on 20 August, 2020 she added further, “….In the past decade, the number of riots and anti-government demonstrations has more than doubled globally. More than 96 of the world’s countries recorded a violent demonstration in 2019 as citizens protested against racial injustice, police brutality, corruption and economic decline…..The might of the military does not make the world more peaceful.”

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s “SIPRI Year book 2020” in its World Overview says “At the start of 2020, nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea)—possessed approximately 13,400 nuclear weapons, of which 3,720 were deployed with operational forces. Approximately 1,800 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert.” (

That being so, China in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic had revealed on Friday morning (May 22), spending on national defence in 2020 would rise to 1.27 trillion yuan (USD 178.6 billion), an increase of 6.6 percent from the previous year, as reported by Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Their military spending is linked to the “Belt and Road Initiative” and President Xi Jinping’s announcement the Chinese “People’s Liberation Army” would be modernised and by 2035 would be a professional, standing army goes with it, say political observers.

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Geo-politics make military and defence spending more important than human development, even in post COVID-19 global economies. After a three month long duel over President Trump’s proposed appropriation bill for 2020, the US Senate allocated an increased defence budget of USD 738 billion. At the passing of the revised appropriation bill, the key Republican Senator on the Defence Sub Committee Ken Calvert told the House, “The bill increases funding for operations and maintenance, and procurement for the next generation of equipment to ensure our men and women in uniform always have the tactical advantage”.

In Russia too, military expenditure had increased in real terms by 30 percent from year 2010 to 2019 according to SIPRI reports. In the more recent past, Russia’s military budget had been around 3.9 percent of its GDP and is expected to remain there in 2020. Russia’s military capabilities cannot be based solely on military expenditure, says SIPRI. More in-depth studies on Russia’s military power, including its power-projection, logistics and support capabilities, prove they are a military power that can stand to US interventions as exhibited in Syria.

The UK increased its defence budget post 9/11 despite the 2008 recession after keeping it comparatively low around 2.65 to 2.70 percent of the annual GDP. Year ending March 2020, their defence allocation was 51.3 billion British Pounds and is seeing an increase to 53.3 billion for year ending 2021 March.

Adopting a multi-year budget law, France budgeted for 2019 to 2025. Its defence budget for 2019 will increase by USD 02 billion to 42.2 billion for 2020. This would keep increasing till 2025 at the rate of 1.89 percent. Within this increased budget for 2020, Euro 850 million will be for foreign deployment.

All these permanent members of the UNSC are “Nuclear-Weapon States” (NWS). The other 04 countries considered major players with nuclear weapons technology and nuclear weapons, also have stockpiles of nuclear arsenals. India one among them, have been pushing for a permanent seat in the UNSC. Meanwhile the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) negotiated by the UN and was open for signing since 1968, was brought into effect in 1970. At present, 191 member countries are signatory to it including “NWS”. In 1995 the NPT was given an unending extension. Thus, non-proliferation continues with nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament left only as a promise.

Non-proliferation now means the world’s combined inventory of nuclear warheads remains at a very high level: around 13,410 warheads in early 2020 while COVID-19 spread became pandemic. About 4,000 await dismantlement, while some 3,720 warheads are deployed with operational forces. US, Russian, British and French warheads close to 1,800 are on high alert. “All the nuclear weapon states continue to modernize their remaining nuclear forces, adding new types, increasing the role they serve, and appear committed to retaining nuclear weapons for the indefinite future” says Federation of American Scientists in their 2020 April update.

UN cannot disarm these NWS. Obviously, the UN is funded by these same NWS. In 2018 the US contributed around 10 billion dollars, almost one-fifth of the UN’s total budget for the year, while President Trump tries to use funding as muscle power to bully UN agencies to sound “anti-China”. China’s annual contribution to the UN that was USD 12 million in year 2000, sees a tremendous increase to USD 367.9 million by year 2019. China is now the second largest contributor after the US. China is also the largest contributor to UN Peacekeeping, both in terms of personnel and funds. (

The ever expanding UN Peacekeeping and its growing budget also prove, the UN has not been able to create a peaceful world as promised at the founding of the UN in 1945. The preamble to the founding Charter says, the United Nations would work towards saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”, would reaffirm faith on fundamental human rights, establish conditions to respect obligations of treaties and international law and to “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.

They have only remained in finely worded UN Resolutions, Charters and Conventions. The UN now with 193 sovereign member States have not been able to peacefully negotiate any conflict on this planet earth during its 75 year existence. The Korean war ended in 1953 leaving two hostile neighbours: North and South Korea. The conclusion of the Vietnam war left over 03 million deaths, over half of the deaths being Vietnamese civilians. The cost of the war for the US was not just dollars spent. A survey by the US War Veterans Administration recorded, of the 03 million troops deployed for the Vietnam war, half a million suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, high rates of divorce, suicides, alcoholism and drug addiction.

The two decade long Vietnam war came to an end after the US and North Vietnam entered into a “no hostilities” agreement in 1973 and North Vietnam capturing Saigon in 1975, re-unifying the country. The UN had no role in it, that compelled the US administration to compromise, with the largest ever peace movement gathering momentum across the globe in late 1960s, creating its own peace literature and songs.

The UNSC has adopted 131 Resolutions referring to Israel from 1967 to 1989. The UN Human Rights Council has adopted 45 Resolutions condemning Israel by 2013. The UN General Assembly adopted 04 Resolutions between 1981 and 1984 to the effect that Israel’s strategic relationship with the US allows for aggressive and expansionist policies and practices in the region. So is the Syrian conflict that in recent times led to mass exodus of civilian people. The Iraqi war, the Libyan tragedy, the Afghan conflict, all remain as bleeding tragedies. The Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP) records 49 ongoing armed conflicts in the world till 2017.

The UN cannot intervene constructively with any independent authority, funded mainly by arms manufacturers and traders. “The arms trade is lucrative” writes Denise Garcia. She writes further, “Sales by the world’s leading arms-producing companies reached $ 420 billion in 2018. These weapons circulate for decades. Everything from small arms, tanks and aircraft to military goods and services are sold in legal and illegal markets. …..The result? Some 464,000 people died in 2017 through homicides and 89,000 individuals died in armed conflicts globally (2017 is the latest year for which data are available).”

In this pandemic affected world Garcia stresses that 2020 should be a turning point for governments to rethink about funding. “Governments need to accept that their concept of national security sustained by a military–industrial complex is anachronistic and irrelevant. To recover from the costs of the pandemic, estimated at up to $82 trillion over the next 05 years, they should instead focus their spending on stimulus packages for decarbonization, health, education and the environment” she wrote.

This leaves the wholly failed UN and its UNSC irrelevant in the new order that should emerge in post COVID-19 world. People will have to think regionally and strive to democratise regional relationships. National economies will have to be established in new regional markets, with democratic governance.

“First, stop new arms races. The world is already awash with weapons” says Garcia. UN is not the intergovernmental organisation for that. It could only happen within democratic regional alliances where People can directly lobby theirs and their neighbouring governments. “2015 Paris Climate Agreement” can only be pushed for action by People’s alliances in the region. “Arms money” can be diverted through regional alliances into regional “Green Climate Funds”, to help countries meet their Paris pledges. We’ve got to leave the UN aside and join regional peace caravans for future prospects. That’s post COVID-19 geo-politics, if sustainable peace and progress is what is needed.

Kusal Perera

01 September, 2020