No one has ever turned down F-35 fighter jets quite like this before. The Arabs were not even told that the fighter jets are disappointing at best. The Americans are plainly confused. In business dealings, it’s usually the U.S. that swindles its partners, not vice versa. And here the Americans thought everything was already settled.
Of course, the fact that Joe Biden did not invite the United Arab Emirates to the Summit for Democracy wasn’t the reason the deal fell through. If he had invited them, however, perhaps the UAE wouldn’t feel as comfortable humiliating him so publicly. All the while, Washington assumed that Abu Dhabi wouldn’t be able to turn down the deal. Well, it has made yet another mistake. The UAE’s reaction clearly expresses how the monarchy feels about the “deal of the century.”
At first it seemed like a great offer, 50 brand new F-35 fighter jets. Even Saudi Arabia doesn’t have those. Then, the UAE realized that, to take ownership, it would need to sacrifice its relationship with China, as the U.S. fears that China’s 5G technology will disclose American aviation secrets. But the Emirates were not satisfied and called off the deal, or as they put it, “technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis led to the re-assessment.”
No one has turned down F-35 fighter jets quite like this before. Despite all their capabilities, the fighter jets were simply overhyped. The Americans are plainly confused. In its business dealings, it is usually the U.S. that swindles its partners, not vice versa. And here the Americans thought everything was already settled. The price tag for the deal was a hefty $23 billion; the U.S. probably had plans to spend this money — both in its imagination and on paper. But shockingly, the U.S. was refused. The F-35 fighter jets, despite all their hype, are more for show. That’s why they are so crazy expensive; they come with the special benefit of American goodwill.
Turkey, for instance, despite being a NATO ally, still hasn’t earned the right to own them. Only Switzerland and Finland, among the countries outside of the alliance, can boast that they have preordered the American stealth fighter jets. The Arabs not only didn’t want to break their ties with the Chinese for such bragging rights, but they have already found a substitute. Just a couple of days ago, China agreed to purchase 80 Rafale fighters from France, with no political conditions, for a meager $16 billion.
Nevertheless, perhaps this is not the end of talks between the UAE and the U.S., but instead a shift to haggling. Abu Dhabi has said, “The U.S. remains the UAE’s preferred provider for advanced defense requirements and discussions for the F-35 may be re-opened in the future.”
The UAE is also probably aware of how Washington has a habit of stealing Paris’ customers. Greece is already on the chopping block after Australia. As soon as Emmanuel Macron struck a deal to sell them three frigates, the White House immediately offered the Greeks four.
So, it’s not a stretch to think that the U.S. will cut the Emirates a nice deal in order to replace the Chinese. The U.S. cannot afford to lose such a valuable partner. This example could become contagious. The State Department reportedly has plans to smooth things over with the UAE, and get out of the corner it has been pushed into.