An American tank

International arms sales to Saudi Arabia grew 130% in the last four years

The arms trade once again breaks another world record in a ranking led by the Riyadh regime, the world’s leading importer of military equipment.

The arms trade once again broke a new record and exports increased 5.5% worldwide during the 2015-2019 period, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Institute for Peace Studies (SIPRI). The recount puts Saudi Arabia first as the world’s leading arms importer: the Riyadh regime increased arms purchases by 130% over the past four years.

Even though some European countries such as Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have chosen to suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, the regime continues to lead military spending to the point that 12% of purchases of military equipment worldwide made by this country.

The bombings of civilian positions and the repeated human rights violations committed by the Saudi regime since 2014 in Yemen – widely documented by the UN – along with other controversial episodes such as the murder of the Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, have not prevented some Western powers continue to trade with this country. According to SIPRI data, 73% of arms imports from Saudi Arabia came from the US and the UK.

Instability in different countries in the Middle East during the last decade has also increased exports to the region. Since 2010, exports to countries in that area have increased by 61% and represented 35% of total global arms imports in the last four years. 

Spain has significantly reduced its exports to the Saudi regime, traditionally one of the best customers in the Spanish arms industry. According to data sent by the Government to Congress on February 27, Spain has gone from being the second country in the world that exported the most to Saudi Arabia (546 million euros) in 2017 to being the thirteenth during the first half of 2019 ( 23.5 million). 

The Government must transfer the data on arms exports to the Lower House every six months, but the long period in office had delayed the accountability of the Executive in arms exports. The data sent at the end of last week are the first available since Pedro Sánchez is in La Moncloa. 

The attempt to cancel the delivery of 400 laser bombs to Riyadh, previously sold and authorized by the Rajoy Executive, was one of Sánchez’s first international disagreements. After that conflict, the Government paralyzed new export authorizations in 2018 and managed to reduce arms sales to this country. 

This reduction, however, could have its days numbered. The same data provided by the Government shows that during the first half of 2019 new exports worth 216 million were authorized. The contract signed by Navantia to sell five corvettes for 1.8 billion to Saudi Arabia is also not included in these data. During the first half of 2019, Spain exported weapons worth 2,413 million euros worldwide.

Spain is the seventh world exporter

The USA It remains the world’s leading arms exporter, followed by Russia, France, Germany, and China. Spain is in the seventh position in this ranking. Although Russia remains in second place, its exports decreased by 18% compared to the period 2010-2014, a reduction that according to Alexandra Kuimova, SIPRI researcher, is due to the loss of land in India, for years her primary client arms.

The strength of the German and French industries also stands out. Exports from France during these last four years have increased by 72% and have reached the highest level in its history. According to SIPRI researchers, this strength is due to the demand of Egypt, Qatar and India, which in the last four years has become the second-largest importer of arms in the world.

Germany, for its part, increased exports of military equipment by 17% compared to the 2010-2014 period, while Turkey, one of the main clients of the industry, reduced its imports by 48% compared to the same period.

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