The Ukraine conflict is but the most recent case where UK policy-makers and weapons manufacturers seek commercial opportunities from devastating wars – often by arming both sides.
When my colleagues Phil Miller and Matt Kennard visited the world’s largest arms fair in London last month, they found weapons manufacturers cashing in on Europe’s worst conflict for decades.
“The war in Ukraine has driven an increase in sales across the portfolio for sure,” one weapons company executive told them.
New orders are indeed flowing to arms companies as some announce rising profits fueled by the war. Corporations such as MBDA, Babcock and Thales have all recently won lucrative new contracts from the UK’s Ministry of Defence for missiles and technical support to armoured vehicles.
Both Babcock and BAE, the UK’s largest arms exporter, have now set up offices in Ukraine, positioning themselves to secure new deals. BAE’s share price has jumped more than 75% since the Russian invasion last year.
The company’s new agreement with Ukraine will “ramp up the company’s support to Ukraine’s armed forces” and enable BAE “to work alongside” them “to… support its future force structure”.
As the UK continues to pour weapons into Ukraine, the devastating conflict is providing a boon to UK and NATO military industry. But there is a long history of Britain profiting from war.