ABU DHABI // As the Nato summit gets set to begin in Wales on Thursday, security and diplomacy experts say it could be an opportunity for the UAE to forge closer ties with the alliance.
“The UAE will get a better sense of how serious Nato is about strengthening the partnership and what the alliance is truly offering,” said Bilal Saab, a senior fellow for Middle East Security at the Brent Scowcroft Centre on International Security at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “This will be an important information-gathering exercise about their intentions and mechanisms of further cooperation.”
Although the UAE is not a Nato member-state, it will take part in the summit, along with 60 other countries, as an observer.
“Nato is desperate for a capable and reliable partner from the Middle East that can share its knowledge of the region’s cultures and politics and also contribute to regional security,” said Mr Saab.
A Nato official said the UAE had cooperated with the alliance in a wide array of formats. “This includes through public diplomacy initiatives at Nato Headquarters in Brussels and in the UAE, regular political consultations at the highest level, and participation in Nato-led operations,” he said. “For instance, the UAE has contributed and continues to contribute to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan; and it has provided air assets to the Operation Unified Protector in Libya.
“The UAE will also be represented at the upcoming Nato Summit in Wales.
“It will attend the meeting of heads of state and government in the so-called Isaf format on Afghanistan; and a meeting at defence ministers’ level to discuss ways to increase the ability of Nato militaries to work with armed forces from partner countries.”
Dr Theodore Karasik, director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said the UAE and Nato benefited from sharing security concerns.
“Such concerns are in the Middle East but also involve the European security architecture,” he said. “This relationship has been building for a number of years and the opening of the UAE mission at Nato last year in April helped to cement ties between the UAE and Nato.”
He said the UAE’s presence could add a voice in a number of areas for Nato in terms of activities taking place in the region. “It could also contribute to trying to calm down issues between Russia and Nato over Ukraine because of the UAE’s proactive foreign policy,” said Dr Karasik.