Intervju z Andrewom Feinsteinom

Intervju z Andrewom Feinsteinom

24. 3. 2017 - 18.00

Gibanje za ekonomsko pluralnost je v ponedeljek na Ekonomski fakulteti organiziralo strokovno razpravo z Andrewom Feinsteinom, ki analizira in raziskuje globalno trgovino z orožjem. Andrew Feinstein je ekonomist, bivši poslanec v Južnoafriški republiki in avtor več knjig s področja mednarodne trgovine z orožjem. Po razpravi smo z njim opravili intervju, v katerem smo se dotaknili tudi orožarskih poslov v Sloveniji.




For the beginning, why did you start researching this specific subject?

So, i had no interest in arms trade or the arms industry or even defense matters, but I was a member of parliament for Nelson Mandela's African National Congress in South Africa after our first democratic elections in 1994, and I was responsible for all the financial oversight, of all the government spending. And a report came to my committee about a huge arms deal: the country spent  10 billion dollars on weapons that we didn't need and that we've never really used, and about 300 million dollars of bribes were paid. So my committe started to investigate this and my own party stopped me. And even as high up as to the president who was then Mandela's successor, a man called Thabo Mbeki, basically told me if i tried to continue to investigate this deal they would throw me out of parliament. So i decided to resign from parliament the night before they were gonna throw me out and I continued to investigate the deal. And I uncovered all of the corruption and I wrote a book about it and about its impact on South Africa's young democracy and then I became interested in those who do the corrupting, the big companies in Britain, in Germany, in France, in America, in Italy who pay the bribes and that led me to my second book called The shadow world: inside the global arms trade. And so that's how I got started in doing this work, it wasn't by choice.

So if we go to a little history, when did illegal international arms trade at large start happening, in the cold war or even  before that?

Long, long before that. From the time that there were weapons and from the time that they were bought and sold for money. There has always been bribery and corruption in the sale of weapons. It's estimated that the trade in arms accounts for about 40 percent of all corruption in all world trade. And even as I go back historically for the book to look at the beginnings of this business, we already see that money was handed over, that sometimes favours were handed over in exchange for these arms deals. So it's been corrupt since there was an arms industry.

How do illicit arms trade effects state systems or the world system?

I think the important thing to bear in mind is that you know, governments and these big defence companies will say that there is a legal and an illegal trade in weapons. The reality is, even the so called legal deals,  that are from one government to another government, always have some element of illegality in them, normally corruption or bribery, so that virtually every arms deal isn't either legal or illegal, it's actually in the middle, its the sort of grey area of what I call »the shadow world«. So I don't believe there are legal arms deals, but the way in which arms deals effect the world is not only do they make the world a far more corrupt place, they also make the wold a far less democratic place, because by hiding this corruption, which they do by invoking national security, they actually undermine the rule of law. In our own country - so even in the selling countries, not even the buying countries - the buying countries politicians are paid huge amounts of money. So in my own country South Africa, our current president faced 783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering on the arms deal that I've tried to investigate and when I tried to investigate it they stopped me. They got a prosecutor to drop all the charges against him just before he was elected president and a few weeks after he was made president, the prosecutor was made a high court judge. So that's the one way in which it affects the world, but the other way in which it affects the world is that of course we have weapons all over the place. That means that conflicts that take place are far bloodier that they need to be, that they tend to go on for much longer that they otherwise would, because people are making a lot of good money out of it. But as importantly, these weapons land up in the hands of all sorts of people they shouldn't be in the hands of. So American weapons, British weapons,  German weapons, French weapons land up in the hands of the very people those countries are supposed to be fighting, groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. But then they are supposedly legally transferring weapons to a country like Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia itself has faced allegations  of providing weapons to and funding Al-Qaeda and ISIS. So, all of these weapons aren't making the world safer, in fact you could argue they are making the world the more dangerous place as well.

If we go a few years back, could you please explain what was  the case with Viktor Bout, was he a state player or a private player?

So, Viktor Bout is a great example,  he would operate in what most governments would describe as the black market,  the illegal trade in weapons. So he was an arms dealer who would take weapons and sell them to authoritarian undemocratic states, he would sell them to rebel groups who were not states. But at the same time, Viktor Bout was being used by all sorts of governments, including the Russian government and the American government. So the Americans were using Bout to get weapons into Iraq, to get equipment into Iraq, so he was both a state actor and a private dealer. He took all of the surplus weapons after the end of the cold war that were around the former Soviet union, particularly the Ukraine, which had acted as the weapons factory for the Soviet union. And he bought them up very cheaply, because he had contacts in the government of Ukraine, the government of Russia, the governments of Bolgaria, he very cheaply bought up some big transport planes, and he started taking all of these weaponry and selling it particularly in Africa, but in other parts of the world as well and he made millions and millions. But the irony is that the Americans didn't want him arrested while he was helping them and their companies. Then, after he started, he was helping others who they didn't like, then they arrested him and put him in jail. So as long as he was useful to them, he was safe, as soon as he was no longer useful to them, they put him in jail.

Well, as he was convicted with the intent of killing Americans,  do you think this is just and why is only killing americans problematic?

Well, to be honest, how they caught him was in what is called a sting operation, so they pretended they had a deal for him and they had people who, acting as representatives of a guerilla movement, called the FARC, and these people who were actually people employed by the american FBI, CIA and Department of justice, made the point of saying to Bout in the negotiations which were all being recorded, we need these certain types of weapons and we will use these weapons to kill Americans in certain parts of the world.  So even though there wasn't an actual deal, Bout still agreed to go ahead with the deal even after he heard that it will be used against Americans. And then the Americans arrested him after he'd agreed to that, took him back to America and trialled him. So there are all sorts of questionable practices in the way in which he was arrested and the fact that it was only done after he had helped the American Department of defense and american defense companies get equipment and weapons into iraq.

My next question was, you partially answered it, is american government while imprisoning arms dealers at the same time selling weapons to war zones itself?

So, the biggest arms dealers in the world are not the necesarily the Viktor Bout - bad as they are, I'm not saying they are good people, what they do is terrible - but the biggest arms dealers in the world are our political leaders. They buy and sell more weaponry than anyone else, and the president of America buys and sells more weaponry than any other state on the planet, because the United states of America is responsible for more than a third of all the weapons that are bought or sold in the world.  So the US for instance, it's biggest client is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia beheads more people than Al-Qaeda and ISIS combined evey year. Saudi Arabia allegedly provides weapons and money to groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Saudi Arabia commits massive human rights abuses against its own people, violates international law, commits war crimes in the middle east. So, for instance, at the moment, Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen. The UN estimates that over 4000 innocent ciivilians have been killed. But not because they are collateral damage in the bombings, they are actually being targeted by the Saudis, the civilians themselves, and these are massive war crimes. And the United States and the United Kingdom are selling Saudi Arabia billions of dollars every year while they continue to bomb Yemen. So our complicit in the war crimes that have been commited by Saudi Arabia and unfortunately this is a pattern of the behaviour by the US, by the UK and many other western governments in many parts of the world.

In the trial, Bout didn't confess guilt saying that he was only a businessman, could you maybe parallel his case with the case of Adolf Eichmann after the second world war and say that he is the personalization of banality of evil?

I'm not sure that i would use Hannah Arendts phrase to describe Viktor Bout. I think it was very appropriate in the case of Eichamann, who after all was part of a system that murdered 12 million people. Not just jews, we must never forget that many Roma people were killed, many communists were killed, many people were killed simply because of their sexuality. So I think the reality that Adolf Eichmann appeared in his trial to Hannah Arendt, like a mid level grey accountant did exemplify how banal evil really is. Viktor Bout is a slightly different character. Bout sold weapons to pretty much anyone who would pay him money for them. So of course what he did was deeply evil. But I think to equate it to the crimes of the nazis, is perhaps taking Arendt somewhat out of context. I think it would be more appropriate to look at the state sponsored violence, because at the end of the day someone like Viktor Bout is a fairly small player in this global business, and as I said earlier, it's actually the states that produce the weapons and distribute them around the world that are really perpetrating evil. And these are the govenments of China, Russia, the United states of America, Bolgaria, France, Britain, Germany, Israel... These countries are the ones that are really perpetrating evil, and I'm not so sure that these countries come across as that banal. Often I think they come across as what they are. It's just that people don't take issue with them enough.

If we go to our context, local context, do you know any illegal arms trade regarding Slovenia?

So, there are two things that have struck me about Slovenia in the arms trade, the first is that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that in what was known as the Patria scandal, Slovenian politicans engaged in corruption in relation to arms deals, which is very common but inexcusable. And my own feeling is that that has never been sufficently investigated in this country and that really concerns me, because Slovenia has recently said they plan to increase defence spending, and that will probably include increases in defence in spending on actual weapon systems and because this industry is responsible for so much bribery, because corruption is really part of the structure of this industry, it's not something that happens because there are one or two bad individuals, it's built in the structure of this trade, it's built into the pricing of the weapon systems. I think that Slovenian people, tax payers whose money is being used to buy these weapons systems need to really question their government as to what exactly they are going to be doing in terms of increasing defence spending that is going to make Slovenia safer. What exactly are they going to be buying, who will they be buying it from and what intermediaries or middle men are they going to be using in these transactions, because its the middle man through whom the bribes are always paid. So i think Slovenian society needs to be very aware of any weapons transactions that take place from this government and need to demand that information is made public about those transactions to ensure that there is no corruption in the deals.

The other way in which i came across Slovenia  in terms of the arms trade is during the Balkans conflict. A Slovenian arms dealer, called Nicolas Oman, was selling weaponry to many parts of the Balkans, which of course was violating the UN arms embargos at the time. He was even selling nuclear material to some of the worst of the Serbian warlords, involved in the Balkans conflit. And there was one extraordinary incident that I've written about in which the particular Serbian warlord asked him to procure red mercury.

Which one?

I need to check the name, was it Karađić? I'll need to look at the book... (It was Karađić, op. a.)

He paid Nicolas Oman 6 million dollars for this red mercury, Oman delivered the mercury but there was something wrong with it, it couldnt be used. Now, what they plan to do with this red mercury, we don't know, we can only speculate. But when it was clear that the red mercury was in some ways not working, was faulty, the Serb sent an assassin to either get the 6 million dollars back from Oman or to kill him. Oman at the time lived in what he describes as his castle in Bled. He managed to persuade the assassin, who easily tracked him down, that for 1.2 million dollars, which Oman gave to the assassin, the assassin would return and say that he hadn't been able to find Oman. Oman then  fled Slovenia and he went to Australia, where he had been before in his life.  And, interestingly, was jailed in Australia not for arms dealing, but for pedophilia. The assassin was even less lucky, he returned to his paymaster and when he told him that he hadn't been able to find Oman or get the money back, the assassin himself was killed. So, Slovenia hasn't been without arms dealers, Slovenia hasn't been unaffected by the global arms trade and I think that all Slovenians should be very wary of the countries engaged in the arms trade and should demand full accountability from its govenment about anybody in the country who might be engaging in arms deals, including the government, as they increase defence spending.

Illicit arms trade obviously isn't alligned with international or national laws, one of the treaties it breaks is the UN arms trade treaty, which entered into force in 2014, how is this treaty successful and other laws successful  in restraining arms trade in your opinion?

Unfortunately, the international Arms trade treaty was simbolically very important, it was the first time the whole international community had tried to develop  a treaty to better regulate the arms trade. Unfortunately it's a very weak treaty, in practice it's unenforcable, it has no enforcement mechanisms, and that's been shown most obviously by the sales to Saudi Arabia, that have been used in Yemen to bomb innocent civilians. The United States, which has not ratified the treaty yet, but claims it will, I doubt it will under Trump, and Britain which has actually signed the treaty, have both completely violated it. In Britain's case it was one of the champions of the Arms trade treaty, so to have violated it in this way so brazenly, unfortunately shows just how weak the treaty is. The problem with the arms trade is that there is no political will to enforce national laws, multilateral agreements or international agreements, because many people within the political process, politicians themselves, political parties, actually benefit financially from the trade in weapons. In addition to which the companies who benefit, pay these political parties huge amounts in campaign contibutions, so there is an enormous amount of money that circulates as a consequence of the weapons sales, and too many people who are in positions of power in corporations and in governments benefit from this circulation of money. And that's why the only way in which there is going to be change in the global arms trade is if the tax payers, whose money is being used in these arms deals and in whose names these arms deals are being concluded, say to their governments we will not countenance these deals, we want you to stop the roll that you play in the global arms trade. So it's going to be down to ordinary citizens actually taking on their own governments, and Slovenia is an extremely good place to do that.


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Prikaži Komentarje


Čestitam, zelo dober intervju in vrhunski sogovornik. Upam, da so ga na intervju povabili še kakšni drugi mediji in da bo dokumentarec s festivala doku filma predvajan še kje. (Škoda le, da ni volje za prevod.)

bravo jančič, odlično

super intervju, sogovornik se je kar razgovoril in fajn velik povedal. verjetn bo dokumentarec na pop-u predvajan kar se da hitro.

Super prispevek!


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