how an arms race begins


I am not a pacifist. And while I do believe having a viable military, and using it properly, has a role I am constantly reminded of what Hemingway said .. “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”

Regardless. I do wonder how arms races (which inevitably lead to war conflict) begin. No. This isn’t going to use America selling Taiwan arms. Or Russia in the MidEast. Or China in Africa. Let’s go small. Because maybe this is really is how an arms race begins …

One of the richest countries in Africa, Equatorial Guinea, is rapidly expanding its naval power.

Some perspective for ya.

The fleet of the 600,000 population country will be larger than that of 160 million population Nigeria.

So this is how it begins (it is kind of like dominos sometimes).

The strategic framework and the correlation of forces in the Gulf of Guinea — one of the most significant and growing energy resource regions of the world — is changing rapidly.


Please note for my geographically challenged readers … this is on the OTHER side of Africa from where all the Middle East/Tunisia activity is happening.

The region is quickly moving from an area of low technology defense and security systems, and minimal command and control at national levels, to one of growing sophistication & higher mobility.

This doesn’t guarantee military confrontation but it does increase the potential for military confrontation.

Countries on a micro level are just like people. When we feel threatened we flee or fight (or puff out our chests and pound them a little … sort of like gorillas).

Some facts.

In January of 2012, the Navy of Equatorial Guinea officially added a 2,500-ton frigate <now their flagship>. It was built in Bulgaria with help from Ukrainian experts. The ship has a powerful enough weapon by the standards of the region: one 76-millimeter and two 30-mm automatic guns and two helicopters.

This is all part of a five-year, $250-million Equatorial Guinea maritime security program – essentially the build-up of an integrated naval and air capability (all this announced February 2010)

What that means is it signals the start of a re-defined strategic architecture in West Africa.

It has brought a coherent military-security framework into reality which means surrounding countries begin looking at what may be vital to their own welfare – in a way in which, to this point, earlier boundary disputes were not looked at.

Given the strategic belief that military planning must be based, to a large degree, on the capabilities (and not the stated intent> of neighboring countries, the move by Equatorial Guinea serves as an intial domino for a response by regional strategic planners.

Capabilities take years to develop.

Intent can change in moments.

This means that Equatorial Guinea’s neighbors must address changing realities.

I read this …

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, is fond of saying that it takes 30 years to develop an army up to corps level, whereas political realities can change a nation’s intent overnight. This means that defense planners must develop capabilities over the long term to be ready for any rapidly-emerging eventuality.

Equatorial Guinea is changing the reality in the region.

In the past two years the Navy of the country has changed beyond recognition. Another like ship was received earlier then the newest  in addition in March of 2011 two 470-ton 62-meter patrol vessels were delivered from Israel <wow … the list of countries involved is getting longer>.

In addition Equatorial Guinea ordered from Israel two corvettes, and is in talks about acquiring a modernized Brazilian Barroso corvette with the displacement of two thousand tons, and another three ships of the same class from South Korea.

Does Equatorial Guinea really this?

“This is designed to defend the country’s maritime borders, and because of this equipment, if necessary, the frigate can land on any part of the coast of Equatorial Guinea in all weather conditions,” said President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo <I want a name like that>.

He added that the new frigate is necessary, considering a large sea area of Equatorial Guinea and the long border with Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola.

On a separate note.

At the same time he announced the creation of Marine Corps.

On another separate note.

The President also announced the procurement of an aircraft Marco Antonio for the armed forces “specially designed for the protection of the country and ensuring its security. They will fly over the territory in order to identify upcoming cases of betrayal, as it happened before.”

A few years ago the country’s “Air Force” virtually existed only on paper and included only civil and trainer aircraft. However, more recently it purchased two batches of Ka-29 and Mi-26, and four Russian Su-25, as well as five attack helicopters Mi-24 and one Mi-17 helicopter.


To try and make everyone feel better …

According to the President, “the acquisition of this equipment does not mean that this country wants regional or territorial supremacy.”

(now I feel better)

On another separate note.

They have also recently acquired mortars, Russian and Chinese artillery, and three older T-55 as well as approximately 40 different armored vehicles (BMP-1, BTR-152, and a small number of BRDM).


Moving on.

And Algeria (back to the other side of Africa).

A large batch <185!> of Russian T-90 tanks will be delivered to Algeria – the country that borders on Tunisia and Libya.

The good news?

Defense ministry officials say that the ministry would not be making any orders for armor in the near future.


Not so fast.

Apparently the recent events in the region, which have already resulted in the toppling of political regimes in three different countries, has made the country want take care of its own defense. In the fall of 2011, Algeria signed another contract with Russia for the delivery of 120 brand new Russian tanks.


I know too much detail.

But the point of this? Maybe this is how arms races begin.

Because if the “little guys” have military stuff you can bet the “big guys” are gonna be sure to have ‘more military stuff.’

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Written by Bruce