Risky Business? Finland Doubles Arms Exports, Gambles on Middle East

In the past 15 years, Finland's arms exports have skyrocketed and undergone a change of pattern. The Middle East is becoming a focal point for Finnish weapons manufacturers, to the dismay of local peace activists, who consider it unbecoming of a nation that styles itself a mediator - writes sputniknews.com.

Between 2002 and 2016, Finland's exports ofmilitary equipment have doubled, according toa recent report fromindependent think-tank Safer Globe . Over these years, Finland has sold military equipment tothe tune of €1.5 billion ($1.76 billion), coupled witha €700 million ($822 million) worth ofweapons forcivilian purposes, such ashunting weapons.

The export ofarms and defense equipment is part ofFinland's foreign and security policy. Between 2003 and 2016, the government and the Defense Ministry have granted some 3,000 export licenses formilitary equipment.

As far back as2003, North America and Europe were the most important export destinations, butin recent years the Middle East has started overtake these traditional buyers, accounting for63 percent ofFinland's total arms export. In 2016 alone, Finland sold armored vehicles tothe United Arab Emirates forover €60 million ($70 million), followinga much sought-after 2007 arms deal.

All inall, armored vehicles constitute 38.2 percent ofthe total exports, which is attributed tothe high cost ofa single vehicle compared toother types ofmilitary equipment, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.

​In the Middle East, Finland exports most military equipment tothe United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, all the three ofwhich have participated inoperations associated withthe civil wars inYemen and Syria.

Peace Organizations Worried

Finland's peace organizations Peace Union and Committee of100 were shocked tolearn that arms exports fromFinland were onthe rise.

The Finnish pacifists also expressed concern aboutlocal arms manufacturer Patria's attempts tobroker a €100 million deal withQatar, which involves armored vehicles and grenade launchers and may become, if successful, Finland's largest arms deal.

"Non-democratic Qatar, a country inthe midst ofMid-Eastern political conflict, accused ofsupporting terrorists and participating inthe Yemeni conflict, is a prime example ofa country that should not even be considered asa recipient ofarms," Laura Lodenius ofthe Peace Union ofFinland said.

According toa survey conducted bythe Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ( SIPRI ), from2012-2016 exports ofdefense equipment tothe Middle East have increased by86 percent.

Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö noted an increase inthe number ofapplications forexport authorizations inFinland, admitting the government's role aspromoter ofthe arms trade. Niinistö stated that arms deals withSaudi Arabia and the UAE have been finalized and will be completed.

​"Arms deals take a long time toprepare and we have worked hard toget intothe markets inthe Middle East," Jussi Niinistö said, asquoted byYle.

Despite the fact that Finland's export figures may be easily dwarfed bymajor arms manufacturers such asthe US, the Nordic country of5.5 million nevertheless placed 13th onthe list ofweapons exporters per capita, according to Safer Globe.

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