Joe Biden’s distaste for Trump’s policies has now pushed the United Arab Emirates towards China as it looks to buy major defence equipment from the Red State. Biden has hurt the United States’ interests by suspending the sale of F-35s to the UAE, a deal approved by former President Donald Trump, as the Emiratis are now looking towards China for their defence needs.
When the Biden administration paused arms sale to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it was expected that US interests in the region will take a direct hit. To deal with the arms sale suspension from the US, the UAE has now turned towards China to deal with its arms needs.
Ever since Biden has been elected President, he has been trying to strategically dismantle the relationship between the US and the UAE and the rest of the Arab world which Trump had so carefully strengthened. Now, China has a window of opportunity, to spread its tentacles in the Middle East, served to it by the Biden administration.
An official, who did not want to be identified, told Breaking Defence at IDEX that the Emirati Army wants to buy a slew of new Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles.
He said, “The deals could include 10 to 15 Golden Eagle CR500 helo drones fitted with Red Arrow 12 missiles, and 20 MR40 unmanned aircraft fitted with BBE-2 bombs.” Adding to that, he said that both the deals would approximately cost $9 million and $7 million respectively.” The UAE is also set to receive thousands of related missile systems”, the official said. The UAE is also looking to buy the CR500 unmanned aerial vehicle which is capable of carrying up to 150 kilograms in payload.
This is in the light of a recent Emirati-Chinese plan to cooperate on long-term production and research projects for unmanned systems, which was on display at the 2020 Unmanned System Exhibition.
The China-Emirates Science and Technology Innovation Laboratory (CEST), a joint project between the UAE’s International Golden Group and Norinco, is located directly in front of the UAE’s conglomerate EDGE Group.
The Chinese company said, “This project has been going on for more than a year now and focuses on research and development within the field of UAVs, being here at IDEX adds so much value to our work and proves our commitment to the UAE defence industry and the region. What happens is that we discuss the customers’ requirements and jointly do the research either to promote a new product or perform the integration works.”
Biden had ‘temporarily paused’ the sale of F-35 stealth fighter planes to the UAE in order to re-evaluate the decision made by the previous administration under former President Donald Trump. The sale of F-35s was promised by the Trump administration to the UAE purportedly in exchange for the Abraham Accord signed with Israel. It also included precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. As of now, Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has the F-35 fighter jet.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had addressed the decision to review the F-35 sale to the UAE. Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Blinken said that when it comes to arms sales, “it is typical at the start of an administration to review any pending sales, to make sure that what is being considered advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy, so that is what we’re doing at this moment.
The advanced fighters are integral to Abu Dhabi’s plans for countering an aggressive Iran and even Israel had acquiesced, but Biden played spoilsport.
Moreover, in just his third week as President, Joe Biden had imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminium imports from the UAE. These were the same tariffs Trump had lifted soon after the UAE established ties with Israel.
Thus, much like every other move which the Biden administration has taken, this one too has backfired but this time it has given China some room to expand its footprint in the Middle East. Biden favouring Iran over better placed strategic allies in the Arab world is already causing tensions and it can threaten peace in the region which was achieved very skillfully by Donald Trump.