GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Mirages of Power? From Sparkly Appearances to Empowered Apparatus, Evolving Trends and Implications of Arms Trade in Qatar and the UAE
Paper Proposal Text :
The GCC countries have become an increasingly lucrative market for international arms trade, especially since the shrinking of Western defense budgets added fuel to the global export race in their direction. Amidst the profuse literature on security relations of the Gulf with outside powers, however, few publications aimed at explaining the internal and international incentives driving this trade beyond sheer security motives on the one hand, and economic determinism on the other hand. This paper, which will focus on evolving trends of arms trade in Qatar and the UAE, will contribute filling this gap by offering an overview of their multifaceted internal drivers and of the way it has impacted the rules of the regional and global security game.

Qatari and Emirati defense procurement used to be a means to an end that had little to do with addressing threats they faced on their own, let alone gaining more power on the international stage. Because they were young small states unable to overcome their own security dilemma, their military acquisition rather constituted a cash flow towards the defense industrial base of Western countries, particularly the US’, but also France’s and UK’s, in exchange for protection guarantees. Thus, they primarily represented a political act toward their allies and protectors more than an actual way to increase their capabilities of self-defense. In addition, their procurement strategies revolved around incentives such as prestige, state-building and internal power allocation that need to be discussed. Recently, new external incentives – chief among which was the global economic context combined with the regional turmoil and its associated vacuum of power – have met with new internal priorities and led the Gulf monarchies to rethink their approach to arms trade. The UAE, most prominently, have taken advantage of the global export race for their market to shape autonomous strategies but also to develop their own defense industrial capacities. Moreover, their expressed capability needs today, as those of Qatar, reflect a slight move away from the ‘oil for security’ paradigm as they seem to have shifted their focus onto sustainable and mission-oriented procurement and force development. These are in line with their newly claimed status of credible powers on the regional and international stage and, in turn, they imply new rules for supplying states and industrial companies.

Using an innovative analytical framework mixing Comparative Politics and International Relations theories to carve out a place of their own for Qatar and the UAE in small states literature, the paper will study the security, political and social rationales of arms trade within the two countries. Taking the Gulf leaders’ perception as a starting point for analysis, the essay will also aim at capturing the multi-level implications of the evolving rules of these markets for suppliers. Across the paper, the evolving dynamics of the client state – supplying state – industrial company triangle will be analyzed. The question of offsets invariably inherent to defense contracts nowadays, for instance, may be seen as an attempt by these countries to foster more sovereignty and power, thus participating in a shifting of dependency logics between them and their Western allies that could rise to become a real game changer, not only in the Gulf arms trade, but in global geopolitics.