Arming Saudi Arabia: Navigating the Paradox of Power and Vulnerability

Policy brief

Palik, Júlia & Nicholas Marsh (2024) Arming Saudi Arabia: Navigating the Paradox of Power and Vulnerability, MidEast Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest arms importers in the world and its armed forces are dependent upon external arms supplies. We analyse the extent to which the Kingdom was dependent upon imports from its major suppliers – the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Spain – during Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen in the period 2015–2022. Although Western export dominance is here to stay for the foreseeable future, Saudi Arabia has the financial means to engage alternative suppliers. While interoperability would be a key challenge, weapons systems can be operated as separate pools. The development of the Saudi local defence industry would take decades and hence sustaining its war efforts exclusively from domestic sources would be impossible.

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