Thursday, May 11, 2017

Russia tries to elbow its way into Saudi Arabia arms club

Long-time U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is pushing to diversify its source of arms suppliers and the Russians are more than happy to help. Up to now, American defense companies have been the top beneficiaries of foreign arms sales to Saudi Arabia and stand to reap billions of dollars more with President Donald Trump's upcoming trip to the kingdom. Yet Moscow is intensifying efforts to capture business from the Saudis, even as it continues to sell to long-time customers such as India and China.
Last week, the Russian news agency TASS reported that Russia's deputy defense minister had a meeting with a top Saudi military official in Moscow. The Russian defense ministry played up the meeting afterward on the government's website with the headline: "Saudi Arabia wants to buy modern Russian armament." "It often conveys a very strong political message when certain meetings are announced."
The Saudis plan to increase military spending by nearly 7 percent this year. The spending, almost 10 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product, was disclosed in its 2017 budget released in December. U.S. foreign military sales to the Saudis accounted for just over half of all arms sales to the Near East/South Asia region from 2012 to 2015, representing a whopping $48.5 billion.