Arms Deals With Saudi Arabia Make US Top Exporter of Instruments of Death

(CN) — As Russia’s share of the pie shrank, the United States increased arms exports by 23% in the last five years, helping to make Saudi Arabia the world’s largest arms importer, a Swedish peace group reported Monday.

“Half of U.S. arms exports in the past five years went to the Middle East, and half of those went to Saudi Arabia,” Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said in a statement.

The Saudi military displays what they say are an Iranian cruise missile and drones used in 2019 attacks on its oil industry at Saudi Aramco’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

SIPRI today released a 12-page fact sheet showing that Middle Eastern countries increased their arms imports between 2015 and 2019 by 61% from the last five-year period.

Getting most of its supply from the U.S., Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest arms importer in 2015–19, increasing its figures by 130%.

SIPRI notes that the U.S. was not alone in continuing exports despite widespread reports that Saudi Arabia is violating international humanitarian law with its military intervention in Yemen.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia imported “30 combat aircraft and large numbers of missiles and guided bombs from the USA, armoured vehicles from Canada, armoured vehicles and patrol boats from France, and missiles and trainer aircraft from the UK,” the report states.

“Germany suspended the bulk of its — already limited — arms exports to Saudi Arabia,” which saw 73% of its supply come from the U.S. and 13% from the U.K., according to the report.

Between 2015 and 2019, Australia and the United Arab Emirates accounted for the second- and third-biggest recipients of U.S. arms. All told, the U.S. sold to 96 countries in the last five years.

Global share of major arms exports by the 10 largest exporters,
2015–19. (Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, March 2020)

Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter, but a decrease in sales to India led its share to shrink 18% in the last five years, SIPRI found. As in the 2010-14 period, India was Russia’s biggest arms client between 2015 and 2019.

The report names India as the second-largest arms importer in the world over the past five years. Pakistan, ranking at 11th, is China’s biggest arms client, a title it has held for all five-year periods since 1991.

When the nuclear-capable countries of India and Pakistan attacked each other in 2019, they did so using imported arms, SIPRI researcher Siemon Wezeman noted.

“Many of the world’s largest arms exporters have supplied these two states for decades, often exporting arms to both sides,” Wezeman said in a statement.

Behind the U.S. and Russia, the next three largest arms exporters between 2015–19 were France, Germany and China. France’s export numbers jumped 72% higher than previous years, with major exports to Egypt, Qatar and India.

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