Early in his tenure, President Biden signaled that his approach to selling arms around the world would mark a sharp departure from the policies of his predecessor Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has yet to follow through on the president’s promising early rhetoric.
When it came to arms sales policy, the first few months of the Biden and Trump administrations couldn’t have been more different. Trump chose Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first foreign trip, and upon landing there he promptly announced a $110 billion arms deal that would create “jobs, jobs, jobs” in the United States. The $110 billion figure proved to be a vast exaggeration, but Trump’s priorities were clear. Short-term economic gains would override concerns about strategy and human rights in the sale of U.S. weaponry. Trump persisted in this approach throughout his presidency, even after the Saudi regime’s murder of U.S.-resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its continuing, indiscriminate use of U.S. arms in its devastating war in Yemen.
Enter Joe Biden. In his first foreign policy speech, Biden pledged to end U.S. support for “offensive operations” in Yemen along with “relevant arms sales.” The State Department launched a review of U.S. arms sales to the Gulf States, including a $24 billion, three-part deal for F-35 combat aircraft, armed drones, and $10 billion worth of bombs for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Biden administration also suspended two offers of bombs to the Saudi regime that had been made late in Trump’s final term in office. The stage seemed to be set for a dramatically different approach to arms sales, one that recognized the value of restraint and elevated human rights concerns within the decision-making process.
Read the full article in Forbes.