Members of the military train, relentlessly, for years on end for a reason: They need to know they can count on each other when it is time to deploy. For the same reason, governments give long-term contracts to military contractors so those companies can deliver reliable weapons that work when needed. It’s about trust.
But not all contractors are as trustworthy as we need them to be.
The French company Airbus makes weapons for EU nations and the United States. But it is battling an ongoing bribery scandal related to its sale of weapons to, of all places, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Airbus crashed into bribery allegations. Just two years ago, the company “agreed to pay combined penalties of more than $3.9 billion to resolve foreign bribery charges with authorities in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom arising out of the company’s scheme to use third-party business partners to bribe government officials, as well as non-governmental airline executives, around the world,” as the U.S. Justice Department explained at the time. These allegations alone should be enough to disqualify the European aerospace company from doing any business with the U.S. government. But there’s more.
The U.S. government alleged that Airbus engaged in a “scheme to offer and pay bribes to foreign officials, including Chinese officials, in order to obtain and retain business, including contracts to sell aircraft.” In other words, Airbus was accused of doing business with our most likely 21st Century foe. And not simply doing business. Also trying hard to work with and sell products to China using ethically questionable tactics. They paid a massive fine to dispense and settle the suit.
When these charges were originally brought forward because of a perceived violation of export control laws, “International corruption involving sensitive U.S. defense technology presents a particularly dangerous combination,” noted Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General David P. Burns of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the Department’s continuing commitment to ensuring that those who violate our export control laws are held to account.” Trust is important and a foreign company that has settled a suit as important as this one violates that trust.
That massive fine was not the end of the probe. The French government expanded the 2020 investigation “with a view to concluding a CJIP concerning matters that are an extension of those involved in the 2020 CJIP, but which could not be treated at that time,” a government spokesman told reporters. A CJIP is a type of deferred adjudication that is an admission of guilt including paying fines to suspend potential criminal charges.
As mentioned, these allegations involve dealings with Libya in the days before the revolution there overturned Muammar Gaddafi. This may require a bit of a history lesson. In his time, Gaddafi was regarded as one of the worst people in the world. He is believed to be behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, which killed 270 people in 1988. He was responsible for the attack on American soldiers in a dance club in Berlin a few years before that. The list goes on, but the point is the same: Airbus shouldn’t have even considered doing business with this man or in that country.
This all may be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Is there anything else out there, any other possible deals with unsavory people? Who knows? Perhaps French prosecutors will announce more charges next year, or the year after that. The company just recently decided to stop importing titanium from Russia and were late to join EU and US sanctions regimes.
The evidence is already overwhelming: Airbus should not be trusted to provide weapons or systems to Western militaries. The company has made its choice and admits dealing with potential foes. We can’t risk the lives of NATO warriors with equipment made by such an unreliable contractor.
James Lowe, is a public policy analyst, and a two decade’s long radio industry veteran who host’s of his own nationally syndicated radio show based in Kansas and carried on the Iheartradio App. Find out more at jiggyjaguar.com