The Trump Administration has approved $1.85? b?illion in foreign military sales to four countries, including about $400 million for sustainment and logistic support for AH-64D Apache helicopters to Kuwait. Here, an AH-64D from the 1-158th Assault Reconnaissance Battalion conducts the last official flight under the US Army Reserve Command on March 6, 2016. Photo by Army Capt. Matthew Roman.
Just five days after President Donald Trump took office, his administration announced it’s approving $1.85 billion in foreign military sales to four countries on three continents.
The Monday announcement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency is the first from the incoming administration. Included in the sale is everything from Apache helicopters for Kuwait to air tractor aircraft for Kenya.
Though it rarely happens, Congress is able to vote these sales down. Otherwise, the next step would be the foreign country cashing in on the sale, which is not instantaneous and sometimes falls prey to further negotiations. Here’s the full breakdown of the sales (costs are estimated):
How much: $400 million
How much: $110 million
Who: Saudi Arabia
What: 10 persistent threat detection system aerostats and related equipment, support, and training.
How much: $525 million
Who: United Kingdom
How much: $400 million
How much: $418 million
It’s too early to tell what these sales mean regarding Trump’s foreign policy or economic vision. These types of sales usually take months to broker and negotiate, said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and are all very likely the product of Obama-era agreements. However, the timing of the announcement might be signaling an “assertive” attitude from the new administration, Hartung said.
“A lot of times a new administration would set these things aside and take a hard look,” Hartung told Air Force Magazine. “The Trump admin just pushed it through the system.”
Economics might have been one of the reasons the sales were quickly cleared. While some of the sales went to innocuous allies like the UK, others went to Saudi Arabia, which Trump singled out previously, threatening to “walk” from it if the Gulf state didn’t pay its share, according to The Guardian. Sales such as these are certainly having countries like Saudi Arabia pay. The more foreign sales of this ilk occur, the more Trump is able to tag himself as a “jobs President,” Hartung said, in reference to American-made goods that are exported to other countries.
Another reason could be a foreshadowing of foreign policy toward Iran, a staunch enemy of Saudi Arabia, which both Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn and Secretary of Defense James Mattis see as a rising threat in the Middle East.
In a December 2016 profile of Mattis in The New Yorker, Steve Coll wrote the retired general “seemed focused on deepening America’s long-standing military and political alliances with Sunni Arab states—Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. During his time at Central Command, he spent many hours talking to counterparts in those countries, which tend to view Shia revolutionary Iran as a serious threat.”
Flynn, for his part, “has implausibly described Iran as the ‘linchpin’ of a ‘working coalition that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua,’” Hartung wrote in a December 2016 op-ed for The National Interest.
Considering all this, however, the previous administration held a heavy finger down on foreign military sales, agreeing to the sale of more than $190 billion of weaponry in its first six years, according to Hartung. That number makes Obama’s sales the highest of any administration since World War II, Hartung wrote in a July 2016 article in The Nation.
“It’s still hard to tell where he’s headed,” Hartung concluded based on Monday’s announcements from the DSCA. “I could see Trump—because of a lot of his positions on foreign policy and economic issues—push arms sales to the Gulf … But it may take a while for that to play out.”