Only after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered did the major networks like CNN finally discover Saudi atrocities in Yemen and a horrid human rights record and history of crackdown on dissent at home.
While perhaps we might say better late than never, it's interesting to now see pieces being written about "the latest countries to suspend new arms deals with Saudi Arabia" given that some of these countries' arms exports to Saudi Arabia were so minuscule to begin with that it hardly warrants congratulatory celebration.
Denmark and Finland on Thursday became the latest countries to suspend new arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Denmark's Foreign Ministry said it was freezing new deals over both Khashoggi and Yemen, while the Finnish Foreign Ministry mentioned only Yemen. Finland also banned new arms sales to the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict.
Their announcements came just two days after Germany said it was stopping all arms transfers to the kingdom.
But CNN follows this with, "Denmark and Finland are not major suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia, but Germany certainly is." This didn't stop global headlines from lauding the move though the headlines should more appropriately read Everyone who is not exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia is halting exports of weapons to Saudi Arabia given that Finnish arms exports to Saudi Arabia totaled a whopping (cough) 5.3 million euros in 2017 according to figures published by a think tank, SaferGlobe.
Compare this to the heavy hitters the United States and United Kingdom. Despite European nations over the past years since the start of the 2015 Saudi coalition air campaign over Yemen steadily decreasing their arms exports to Saudi Arabia by the multiple tens of millions, the overall value of Saudi arms imports actually increased.
CNN acknowledges this in the following:
Despite these decreases, the overall value of Saudi weapons imports actually increased by 38% between 2016 and 2017.
That was almost entirely because of a huge uptick in transfers from the United States, which almost doubled its exports in terms of value from $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion in that time. Germany also multiplied its exports from $14 million to $105 million, although it is expected to be much lower this year following its suspension.
In terms of the negligible to almost non-existent deals that Denmark and Finland have with the kingdom, the countries announced that the few existing contracts in place would not be canceled.
Here's the breakdown of where Saudi Arabia currently gets its weapons from, according to updated figures published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):
- Between 2016 and 2017 the U.S. almost doubled the value of its arms exports to Saudi Arabia, from from $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion.
- The United Kingdom transferred worth an estimated $843 million in 2016 but almost halved that value to $436 million in 2017.
- French arms exports were worth $174 million in 2015 but dropped to $91 million in 2016 and $27 million in 2017.
- Germany had increased its exports from $14 million to $105 million between 2016 and 2017, a number expected to drop significantly following its announcement to suspend weapons sales with the kingdom.
- Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria all made sales of over €100 million to Saudi Arabia, according to 2016 figures.
In total CNN concludes that over the past half decade "the US accounted for 61% of major arms sales to the Saudis" with the UK "a distant second, with a 23% share" and "France, in third place" with "a mere 4%".