Prospects for UAE-US Relations in a New Strategic Environment

  • 20 April 2022

The war in Ukraine has highlighted tensions in the UAE-US relationship, but these tensions are the result of a long-running accumulation of factors related to the current US administration.

First, there is uncertainty in the UAE regarding Washington’s continued commitment to maintaining regional security, particularly the threat posed by ballistic missiles and drones operated by Iran-backed militias. Washington reopened negotiations on the nuclear deal with no guarantees that these concerns would be addressed. Second, Biden’s decision to reverse Trump’s approach to Iranian containment has contributed to a cooling in relations between both countries. Third, the US and UAE have different interests with regards to their relationship with China and Russia, which the Ukrainian crisis has highlighted. The conflict has exposed disagreement between the UAE and US on energy issues, as well as the UAE’s use of Chinese 5G technology and its engagement in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Ukrainian crisis, and the issue of energy supplies and prices, may offer an opportunity for the UAE and US to redefine their strategic relationship and develop a new framework able to deepen their geo-security partnership. Such an approach might better address the key points of contention, particularly regarding security threats and defense. This could be part of a bilateral or regional framework to reach a mutual understanding on relations with major world powers.

Regional and international systems are adapting to a new strategic environment that necessitates engagement in deep strategic dialogue to readjust UAE-US relations. This could strengthen and expand the partnership for a new era of deepened common interests, mutual trust, established governance and increased bilateral cooperation in addressing common threats.

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