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Monday, July 15, 2024

West ‘stunned’ by weakness of its military industry – US senator

The Ukraine conflict demands much more money, Jim Risch (R-Idaho) has said

The conflict in Ukraine has revealed problems with war-related industrial production in the West that need to be fixed, US Senator Jim Risch of Idaho has said.

Risch is the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He made the remark during a NATO event in Washington, DC on Wednesday that was hosted jointly by the US government and several think tanks.

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“I think all of us have been stunned by the weakness and the holes in our industrial production when it comes to defense,” Risch told the NATO Public Forum. “We’re going to have to do more.”

Risch noted that all members of the US-led bloc had agreed to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense back in 2014. Some states have not yet lived up to that commitment, “and frankly, now that this has happened, 2% probably isn’t enough,” he added, referring to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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The senator from Idaho spoke as part of a panel called ‘Strengthening the Transatlantic Bond’, which also included Czech President Petr Pavel, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

The US and its allies have sent tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine, starting even before the Russian military operation. Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelenskly recently warned that Kiev has 14 brigades worth of men but no weapons for them, until the West sends some.

While the Russian military industry has scaled up production, NATO countries have struggled to do so, raising questions about their ability to replace their own depleted arsenals, let alone continue to supply Ukraine for “as long as it takes.”

“Production matters. Production is deterrence,” US Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told a gathering of arms manufacturers during a NATO event on Tuesday. She argued that Western countries can quickly build “arsenals of democracy,” since their political systems supposedly foster innovation and transnational cooperation while those of “autocracies” such as Russia or China do not.

The White House has pitched the open-ended Ukraine funding program as a potential bonanza for “good American jobs” in the military industry. According to US media outlets, however, while companies such as Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin have seen windfall profits, they have been slow to expand production capacity or hire new workers.