Factsheet: U.S. Security Assistance to the Balkans
Security Assistance Monitor, April 2021
A new SAM factsheet looks at U.S. arms sales and security assistance to the Balkans in Southeast Europe.
With the U.S. government’s renewed focus on perceived threats posed by Russia to its near abroad, U.S. assistance to the Balkans has grown in recent years. Over the past decade, Romania received the largest share of U.S. security assistance provided to the Balkans, followed by Bulgaria. This assistance was mainly utilized for military modernization, Black Sea maritime awareness, and NATO interoperability. Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo have received the most assistance in peacekeeping operations in the region and in Europe since year FY2000.
The factsheet also details arms sale notifications for the Balkan States since 2010.
The 2021 National Defense for the Authorization Act now requires “an assessment of the value” of an increased U.S. military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as one on “the strategic significance of Russia’s and China’s military posture” as their activities increase in the Balkan region.
A new SAM factsheet provides a detailed overview of U.S. security assistance in the Sahel over the past two decades and notes how the current approaches to extremism in the region is falling short of improving local security.
The U.S. House has passed a bill restricting arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi following the intelligence community’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation. The legislation would stop the sale and export of “certain defensive materials” to Saudi Arabia unless the president can confirm the country is not engaged in the “repression and torture of dissidents and arbitrary detention of U.S. or international citizens.”
The Head of US Central Command General Kenneth F. McKenzie has said he does not “see us withdrawing completely from Iraq in the future” amid strategic talks with the Iraqi government on the future of U.S. troops in the country.
Fourteen leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have urged US Secretary of State Blinken not to waive the human rights conditions on military aid sent to Egypt. The groups insisted that overriding the human rights conditions would go against Biden’s campaign pledge of “no more blank cheques” to the Egyptian government.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has moved unanimously to advance the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, which would provide Ukraine with “up to $300 million per year in military assistance until 2026.” The bill needs to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by President Biden in order to become law.
U.S. Central Command leader, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, says basing U.S. troops in nations near Afghanistan could help in countering terrorism in the country, after the military’s withdrawal by September 11. Yet, the general acknowledged that there’s no agreement with nearby nations as of now.
Israel and Greece have signed a $1.65 billion contract, their biggest ever defense procurement deal. Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems will establish a training center for the Hellenic Air Force over a 22-year period, according to Israel’s defense ministry.
Following the UK’s decision to follow President Biden’s lead and withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11, British MPs have called for an Iraq War-style inquiry into Western military intervention in Afghanistan. According to MP Tobias Ellwood, the UK needs to “learn the lessons of what went wrong” and discuss why the coalition used what he termed an “over-centralized Western model of governance” for Afghanistan.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade has been given permission to challenge in the high court the UK’s decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Sarah Waldron of CAAT has said “UK-made weapons have been central to a bombardment that has destroyed schools, hospitals and homes and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world” in Yemen.
China is an increasingly relevant player in the Middle East arms market, according to an analysis of a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). According to SIPRI’s data, China increased the volume of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by 386 percent and 169 percent, respectively, compared to 2011–2015. While China’s increasing arms sales to key American partners in the Gulf may complicate decisions in Washington, that does not mean that the United States should reflexively supply weapons to any country in the region that wants them, write Bradley Bowman, Maj. Jared Thompson, and Ryan Brobst in Defense News.
Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold argue that the Biden administration’s $23 billion weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates “makes a mockery of [the administration’s] commitment to put human rights at the forefront of its foreign policy.” They add that the Emirates’ is a “serial human rights abuser” both domestically and throughout the region, with “disastrous roles in Yemen and Libya”. If Biden continues to prioritize profits of weapons manufacturers over human rights, Benjamin and Gold say “Congress must step in and pass legislation to stop him.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, provides her experience and research on the war in Iraq, and argues that the best thing the U.S. can do is to “withdraw its remaining troops and end its support for sectarian parties that continue to keep the country divided and dysfunctional.” The “Iraqi youth have spoken: They reject the control of any foreign state, Iranian or American,” says Whitson, “We should accede to their demands and get out of the way. We’ve done enough harm already.”
Diana Ohlbaum applies a racial-equity lens to the US’ Pentagon budget, writing that national security policy and defense budgets should not be exempt from the scrutiny of their effects on communities of color. “Americans can no longer pretend that the size of the Pentagon budget is a measure of national security, or that spending more on the military will keep us safer. Instead, we must recognize the Pentagon budget for what it is: a monument to white supremacy. And like Confederate statues, it needs to be removed from its pedestal.”
Data Fact of the Week:
Share of U.S. Security Assistance in the Sahel Between FY2001-FY2020
The graphic above illustrates the country breakdown of U.S. security assistance in the Sahel among the G5 states.
Click hereto read SAM’s full factsheet on U.S. security assistance to the region.