In a staunch defence of Britain’s arms exports, as he tours the region with a group of senior defence manufacturers, Cameron said it was wrong to leave small Gulf countries to fend for themselves.
Speaking in Kuwait, which is marking the 20th anniversary of the expulsion of Saddam Hussein’s forces, Cameron said: “The idea that we should expect small and democratic countries like Kuwait to be able to manufacture all their means of defence seems to me completely at odds with reality.”
The prime minister indicated irritation with his critics when was asked during a press conference with his Kuwaiti counterpart how he could promote democracy and reform in the Middle East while travelling with businessmen selling arms to the region.
Cameron said: “I simply don’t understand how you can’t understand how democracies have a right to defend themselves. I would have thought this argument is particularly powerful right here in Kuwait which, 20 years ago, was invaded by a thuggish bullying neighbour who disrespected your sovereignty, invaded your country and destroyed parts of your capital city.
He added: “Are we honestly saying that for all time, forever and a day, that countries like Kuwait have to manufacture and maintain every single part of their own defences? I think very few people considering that argument for any time would give it any consideration at all.”
…The UK is among the world’s most successful defence exporters. A Freedom of Information release obtained by Campaign Against the Arms Trade shows that in the 10 years between 2000 and 2009 the total value of UK defence exports was $93bn – second only to the United States. The same document lists Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait as “key” defence and security markets in 2010 and 2011.