US-UAE relations more important than ever

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US-UAE relations more important than ever

Americans see no problems in business ties with Arab partners


Bernd Debusmann Jr.

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Published: Wed 25 Feb 2015, 11:06 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 11:57 PM

Abu Dhabi — Despite falling oil prices, the changing threat environment of the Middle East means that the UAE and other Arab states will continue to invest heavily in American-manufactured defence products over the next few years, industry insiders say.

At the International Defence Exhibition and Conferences (Idex) in Abu Dhabi, American defence companies say that they see no threat to pre-existing plans for their businesses and their operational relationship with Emirati and other Arab partners in the region.

Defence equipment — including fighter aircraft and Blackhawk and Apache helicopters — account for a large part of the $27 billion trade between the UAE and the United States. According to the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, the country has recently expressed an interest in a $270 million sale of more advanced F-16 aircraft to complement the ones they already have, which serve as the backbone of the UAE Air Force in the fight against Daesh.

Paul D. Oliver, Vice-President Middle East and Africa, International Business Development for Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS)“The Middle East as a whole is important, and the UAE is a tremendous customer,” said Paul D. Oliver (in pic, right), Vice-President Middle East and Africa, International Business Development for Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS). “Some are actually trying to accelerate acquiring certain capabilities, such as ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capabilities.”

“They may be a little more cautious of discretionary spending from a budget standpoint,” Oliver continued. “But plans are in place and expenditure and budget profiles are in place.”

The strong defence relationship between the US and the UAE, as well as with other Gulf countries, has been starkly highlighted at Idex. On Sunday, more than 300 senior American and Emirati business and government officials gathered in Abu Dhabi to kick off the event. US visitors at Idex include former Defence Secretary William Cohen, now CEO of the Cohen Group.

At the event, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar said that US-UAE ties are more important than ever, given the security threats posed by Daesh and the ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq.

“In a region roiled by threats from Daesh to the brutal Assad regime, from sectarian conflicts to the danger of ungoverned regions, the importance of the US-UAE partnership only comes into sharper focus,” he said.  Anand Stanley, Sikorsky’s vice-president and general manager for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, said that the nature the Gulf’s steadily increasing military capabilities and commitments require a long-term commitment on the part of his company, regardless of falling oil prices.

“What commitment means to us is having a presence in region that is not a Sikorsky presence, but also a partnership,” he said.

“The proof of the partnership is in our investments and our ability to have technology transfer in the region.”

“A lot of the countries in this region have been taking a leadership role on their own,” Stanley added.

“There may be some security requirements which may accelerate some short-term needs and short term drivers, but in the long term I do believe that modernization is not going to stop. There are strategic objectives behind that.”

Over 70 of Sikorsky’s Blackhawk helicopters are currently in service with the UAE’s military. 

Stanley also said he believes that the UAE sees defence cooperation with American companies as an economic investment for the future.

They are looking at this at an economic multiplier through the investments in the modernization of whatever they doing. It’s very beneficial for everyone,” he said.

Lockheed Martin Communications Director John Neilson said that the UAE’s commitment to the safety of the country trumps any immediate concerns about declining spending power due to the price of oil.

“No matter what, the price of oil is an issue,” he said. “But any government’s number one priority is to protect its sovereignty.”

“People are still looking to have strong defence capability.”


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