A United Arab Emirates Block 60 F-16E Desert Falcon (US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — Defense spending by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations is steadily rising, despite the decline in the West.
Defense spending in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) is estimated to have grown about 20 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to budget figures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), all independent think tanks.
Calculating precise defense expenditures in the six GCC nations is difficult since the countries do not publicly release budget documents. In many cases, defense spending is spread across numerous government accounts, such as homeland security. Numbers that are available are often not transparent.
For example, none of the think tanks had a 2012 projection for Qatar’s defense spending.
In recent years, the GCC states have steadily beefed up spending to counter what they see as a growing threat from Iran. High-value weapons purchased include combat aircraft, missile defenses and ground systems.
Between 2008 and 2011, GCC countries announced more than US $75.6 billion in arms transfer agreements, according to a September CSIS report. Nearly $52 billion, or 70 percent of those announcements, were made by Saudi Arabia. UAE was second with $17.2 billion.
Over that same period, GCC took delivery of nearly $16 billion in new weapons, with Saudi receiving $10.2 billion and UAE $3.3 billion, according to CSIS estimates. Collectively, GCC nations have received equipment valued at 80 times more than weapons Iran received between 2008 and 2011.
Between 2010 and 2012, the US Defense Department announced the potential for weapons sales to GCC nations totaling more than $115 billion, according to congressional notifications.
The US was the largest weapons supplier to GCC nations between 2008 and 2011. Of $15.9 billion in weapon deliveries over that period, $9.4 billion was US-built. Western Europe provided $4.6 billion to these countries, while China provided $900 million, Russia $400 million and other European nations $600 million.
“Regional stability will not be possible without a strong US military presence, a growing emphasis on partnerships in security and counterterrorism, and US efforts to negotiate the way out of internal and international conflicts, as well as provide military help to deter, contain, and end them,” Anthony Cordesman, a strategy analyst at CSIS — and former DoD official — wrote in the think tank’s 2014 global forecast.