How the U.S. traps its customers
China’s neighbors may regret their dependence on U.S. weaponry, said Mu Lu. The Pentagon announced the sale last week of surveillance drones to four countries in the South China Sea region—Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam—with the goal of “containing China.” But the sale is not primarily intended “to assist those allies.” It’s meant to prop up the aircraft’s manufacturer, Boeing, which has seen its share price tumble following deadly crashes of its 737 Max jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia. The four countries are together spending $48 million on 34 ScanEagle drones, but the ultimate price will be far higher. That’s because military hardware bought from the U.S. “comes as a whole package, including support equipment and technical services.” The U.S. always ensures that its weapons can’t be used in combination with technology from other countries. The buyer is then bound to American suppliers for as long as it uses the weapons—and military equipment is so expensive that it is meant to last decades. Eventually, any country that sources weapons from the U.S. will face a choice: “either meet any demand of the U.S. or have no other option to update their military equipment.” Do these nations really want to be vassal states? Better to rethink those purchases.