President Joe Biden says the United States is moving through with the sale of up to 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter fighters to the United Arab Emirates, despite Abu Dhabi’s “obligations” to protect its technology.
On the margins of this week’s Dubai Airshow, Mira Resnick, the State Department’s senior regional security officer, met with Emirati authorities to address the matter.
Last week, Resnick told Breaking Defense that the Biden administration is still seeking “clarification on securing the fifth-generation fighter” from UAE authorities.
When asked about the status of such promises, Resnick indicated only that “high-level discussions” will go on. According to her, “those projected [transfer] dates are far in the future, so if implemented, we have some real time to consult, we’ve had quite a robust and sustained dialogue with Emirati officials, and I can sort of leave it at that.”
Why does it matter?: The Biden administration signed approval on a Trump government request to enable the United Arab Emirates to acquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, left from the previous administration.
A deal to sell the MQ-9B Reaper drones for $23 billion has stalled, apparently because of worries in Washington over Abu Dhabi’s capacity to safeguard the weapons’ sensitive technology from slipping into the wrong hands.
Concerns over the United Arab Emirates’ links to China and its commitment to using Huawei to supply 5G networks have not been made public by U.S. authorities, but media have mentioned this as a significant factor in the problem.
Resnick told reporters that they expect “a continued, robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE to ensure that any defense transfers meet our mutual national security strategic objectives…. while protecting U.S. technology.”
Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate is Russia’s counterpart to the F-35 Lightning II. Russia’s state-owned Rostec said it plans to sell the fighter to Middle Eastern countries by 2026 as a stealth light tactical aircraft.
“Checkmate” manufacturing is now again being discussed with Emirati businesses by Rostec, according to a senior Rostec officer who spoke at yesterday’s airshow in Moscow.
Rostec’s international cooperation head Viktor Kladov was cited as saying that “Russia doesn’t set any political tag or conditions for cooperation with countries.”
During the Dubai Airshow this weekend, the Russian Su-75 “Checkmate” made its worldwide premiere. Remarkably, Resnick believes that the United States and its allies offer a better deal than Russia and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“I was on the flight line today. There were lines around the corner to see the F-35”, she stated during an online conference with the media, “It’s a real game-changing opportunity for the UAE and for our partnership, and we look forward to implementing that sale.”
Resnick, when asked by Al-Monitor if the Biden administration is taking Moscow’s “Checkmate” deadline seriously, refused to comment directly on the matter.
“Our partners know the risks of CAATSA sanctions and that we are very serious about implementing CAATSA, whether it is in this region or around the world,” Resnick said.