Top Democrat warns Saudi arms freeze could benefit Russia and China

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)
Greg Nash
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) speaks with reporters to discuss the National Defense Authorization bill on Friday, September 30, 2022 as the House take procedural votes regarding the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government until Dec. 16.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview that an proposed year-long suspension of U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia could benefit both Russia and China. 

During an appearance on CNN’s “At This Hour,” Smith told host Kate Bolduan that even though the U.S. has a strained relationship with Saudi Arabia, citing several ongoing issues such as the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and Arabic country’s current conflict with neighboring Yemen, freezing their arms deal would create uncertainty between the two countries. 

“You will see Saudi Arabia turn more and more to Russia and China. And how does that play out in terms of meeting our interests?” Smith told Bolduan. “So it’s a lot more complicated than just saying, you know, we don’t like Saudi Arabia, and therefore we’re cutting it off, and everything will be fine from there because they’re very fraught, complicated relationship.”

Smith also said that the U.S. needs to put more pressure on Saudi Arabia with regards to issues such as human rights violations, adding that the suspension of arms sales would allow Saudi Arabia to have closer relationships with Russia and China. 

“I think Putin would potentially have a closer ally in the fight against Ukraine. China would have greater entrée to the Middle East. And there would be significant challenges there. And after all of that, would Saudi Arabia be a better global actor?” Smith told Bolduan. 

“And again, I am very much aware of the things that Saudi Arabia has done that are indefensible. No question about the where does that go in terms of how we either change that behavior or better improve our position in the world? It’s going to take a lot of deep thought.” 

Smith’s remarks come as Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would suspend all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia for one year. 

The lawmakers proposed legislation came as a response to  OPEC+’s decision to cut all oil production by 2 million barrels per day. Russia, one of the eleven nonmember counties in the coalition, cut off most of its supply of natural gas for the rest of the continent amid its ongoing conflict with Ukraine. 

Recently, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also urged the U.S. to freeze its cooperation with Saudi Arabia in a letter on Monday, saying that the nation’s decision to cut oil production will greatly benefit Russia in its war against Ukraine. 

“There simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict – either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping off an entire country off of the map, or you support him.”

Tags Adam Smith Adam Smith Bob Menendez Bob Menendez China CNN House Armed Services Committee Jamal Khashoggi Kate Bolduan Kate Bolduan OPEC+ Richard Blumenthal Ro Khanna Russia Saudi Arabia Senate Foreign Relations Committee U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations Ukraine
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