The Myth of U.S. Energy Independence and the Realities of Burden Sharing
October 26, 2016
The U.S. election is taking place at a deeply troubled time for U.S. strategic relations with its allies in the Arab world. These problems go far beyond the Gulf. Egypt faces a serious crisis in terms of both economics and internal stability. Morocco and Tunisia remain under acute economic strain. Lebanon faces a refugee crisis, continuing internal instability, and the spillover of the civil war in Syria. Jordan faces the same problems with a refugee crisis and the spillover of the civil war in Syria, but is also challenged by the instability in Iraq and Iran, and is effectively part of both the Levant and the Gulf.
It is the Gulf, however, that presents the most serious challenges in terms of vital U.S. security interests. These challenges are coupled to a lack of broad U.S. understanding of the security challenges in the region and the importance of the Arab Gulf states as strategic partners. At the same time, there are growing questions in the United States about the strategic importance of the Gulf and MENA region in an era where the United States is approaching self-sufficiency in oil and gas production and where U.S. economic and federal budget problems put a new emphasis on burden sharing.
The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing anew analysis entitled The Myth of U.S. Energy Independence and the Realities of Burden Sharing: U.S. Strategic Partnerships with the Arab Gulf States Remain a Vital National Security Interest. This report is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/161026_Security_in_the_Gulf_Energy_Dependence_and_Burden_Sharing.pdf
This analysis traces the key pressures that threaten the U.S. strategic partnership with the Gulf states, and show why they have reached a near crisis. It then focuses on the trends and data that show that the strategic importance of the stable flow of Gulf petroleum exports will not be reduced by increases in U.S. oil and gas production. Finally, it addresses the issue of burden sharing, and shows that the Arab Gulf states spend far more of their economies on national security and arms imports—most of which come from the United States and creates security forces that are interoperable with U.S. forces—than most countries in the world. In fact, the Gulf States cumulatively spend a larger portion of their economies on security than the United States spends on security This spending is so high in some Arab Gulf countries that it threatens their economic reform and development programs.
If the United States is to preserve and strengthen its strategic partnerships in the MENA region it needs to address these issues early in the next Administration. It needs to do so in ways that reflect a proper understanding of the needs and priorities of its Arab allies, of the strategic importance of playing a key role in security of the flow of Gulf energy exports, of the size of the burden the Arab Gulf states now bear in national security, and of the need to consider the Gulf States’ broader concerns for internal stability and economic development.