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Opinion

March 13, 2018

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A tale of misplaced priorities

A flurry of recent political events in various world capitals indicates that the global ruling elite are least bothered about the problems faced by the people – hunger, abject poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Instead, they are more interested in focusing on less pressing concerns.

They seem to be busy creating the spectre of a danger to their national security, and pumping billions of dollars into fighting the imagined enemy of their people. The recent ‘invincible missile’ tests by Russia may have created a ripple of excitement among ultra-Russian nationalists, but they have dampened the hopes of pacifists who were relying on Moscow to rein in US unilateralism, which advocates belligerence, threats and the use of force.

In an annual address to the Russian parliament, the Kremlin leader said that Russia had developed a new, nuclear-capable cruise missile with “unlimited” range that is capable of eluding air-defence systems. Boasting of the new weaponry, Putin claimed that it would render Nato defences “completely useless”, delivering a warning to the world about Russia’s resurgent military might.

The ex KGB chief said that Russia had developed an “invincible” missile that can deliver a warhead at a hypersonic speed. Russia believes that with these agents of destruction, the world will take the country seriously. Putin’s address also reflects this belief. He said: “Russia still has the greatest nuclear potential in the world, but nobody listened to us. Listen now”.

An historian once said: “history has a lesson for those who want to learn, not for those who want to remain adamant”. If weapons were a key to victory, the Soviet Union would have never collapsed. According to some estimates, the former communist state possessed more than 27,000 nuclear arsenals. More than 5.6 million people were affiliated with arms and other defence-related industries or sectors. It had surpassed the US in terms of space technology by 1956 and still remains the leading player in this regard. But the Soviet Union evaporated without facing any major onslaught. No B-52s were used to pushed the former superpower into the Stone Age. No attack that was equivalent to Hiroshima or Nagasaki was carried out to coerce it into granting independence to its federating units. No cluster bombs and napalm attacks haunted the Soviet Union, forcing it to dissolve the socialist union.

In fact, it was the indifference of the ruling elite to the day-to-day issues of Russian workers that led to the collapse. Amassing lethal arms may have given a sense of triumph to a few warmongers in the power corridors of Moscow, but millions of people – who had to stand in queues for hours to secure the essential commodities of life – had no interest in these weapons of mass destruction. For them, it was bread, butter and the provision of basic amenities and decent housing that held greater significance.

Although the communist government provided a number of facilities to its people, the quality of these provisions was always questionable. One of the reasons why the socialist elite could not provide qualitative consumer goods and other amenities of life was their lavish spending on the non-productive sector of the economy – bureaucracy, arms and other defence-related expenditures.

Today, more than 20 million people are living below the poverty line in Russia. Homelessness, inflation and expensive medical treatment seem to have become the order of the day. Will it not be appropriate for Putin to invest all his energies in addressing these issues instead of intensifying the fear of war and destruction by squandering the hard-earned money of Russia’s people on destructive weapons that cannot save the country from disintegration?

Russia isn’t the only country that is keen on spending precious human labour and capital on these destructive arms. Other countries are also not immune to the frenzy of manufacturing and purchasing arms. Some countries are also spending people’s hard-earned money to appease the rich. India, the largest democracy in the world, has emerged as the fourth-largest military power in the world – which, of course, would not have been possible without spending vast amounts of money on defence.

A large number of people in India are steeped in abject poverty. The country’s caste-ridden system has made the lives of millions of people all the more challenging. New Delhi and several other major cities are in the grips of a polluted environment that makes it difficult to live in them. But the warmongers in the union’s capital are least worried about these bitter realities.

Pakistan, with its meagre GDP, is spending around seven billion dollars on defence. No one appears to have time to think about the 60 million people in the country who are grappling with poverty, 40 percent of our children who are stunted and over 60 percent others who have been deprived of clean drinking water and suffer from malnutrition.

The leaders of the civilised world, such as France, the US and the UK, will continue to churn out arms and lethal agents of destruction without giving any thought to the environmental disasters that war and conflicts bring with them. They are least concerned about the social cost of these business deals. In their own societies, they are cutting down expenditure on social sectors. Today, right-wing politicians in the Western world question the rationale for helping the handicapped and wonder why they don’t work. They are withdrawing power subsidies and extending blanket support to the rich.

The nationalisation of private banks in the UK and the bailout package of over $700 billion for the financial sector in the US clearly indicate that the global ruling elite are not interested in serving the vast majority of people by devoting their energies towards their betterment. They would prefer to serve a tiny minority of the world that triggers wars and destruction in various parts of the world and extort money from them in times of economic crises in the name of bailouts.

It is strange to see that more than 290 million Americans have around $4 trillion set aside for their health while 1.2 million US soldiers get the lion’s share of the federal budget. While the US is reluctant to spend money on providing housing for the poor, it appears to be generous in spending over $3 trillion dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.

Similarly, the UK is not prepared to hire more doctors and nurses at hospitals and increase fire tenders at fire stations. Instead, it is excited about upgrading its nuclear arsenal and willing to pump billions of dollars into it. This suggests that the global ruling class is least interested in addressing the genuine problems of the people. Putin has also become part of this class by pumping billions of dollars into something that is not going to bring any benefits to the people of his country.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: egalitarianism444@ gmail.com

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