Kuwait Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

Kuwait is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Kuwait City. The small, militarily weak Kuwait has always been in a vulnerable position and it has therefore been important for the country to try to maintain good relations with more powerful countries in the region: Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Several times the country has been forced to buy territorial security by sharing its oil riches. At the same time, wealth and generosity have led the country to play a role in the Arab world that is disproportionate to its modest size and population.

kuwait military spending and defense budget

Kuwait was driving when the oil exporting countries’ organization Opec in the 1970s pushed up oil prices. The country was also in 1981 and founded the Gulf States Cooperation Organization GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), which includes neighboring countries Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwait has actively supported the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel. However, the involvement of the Palestinians slowed significantly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when PLO leader Yasir Arafat openly supported Iraq. After that, relations with the Palestinians were long bad and were only normalized in 2004, when then-Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas (later Palestinian President) visited Kuwait and publicly apologized.

For a long time, relations were cold to countries that did not distance themselves from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, but in 1999 relations with Jordan, Sudan and Yemen were normalized.

In order to strengthen the defense following Iraq’s invasion and the 1990-1991 war, Kuwait entered into a defense cooperation agreement with the United States, which led Kuwait’s liberation, and the United States has had troops throughout the country ever since the war, albeit in reduced numbers. Ali al-Salim Air Base is one of the most important in the region of the United States and Kuwait is one of NATO’s military alliance’s most important and closest partners in the area of ​​the Persian Gulf. Discussions have been held within the GCC to form a “Gulf States’ NATO”, to which even the kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan would be invited, but so far the project has fallen on the various interests of the individual countries.

Kuwait’s defense budget amounted to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, according to the Peace Research Institute Sipri. At about that level, military spending has been around for a few years, but the proportion has increased if compared with the situation in line with the so-called Arab Spring. In 2011, several dictators in the Arab world were overthrown and several civil wars erupted.

Arms purchases are mainly made from the USA, for example Patriot Robots 2020.

Kuwait supported the US-led terrorist alliance formed after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. The country also supported the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that year. Ahead of the planned attack on Iraq in March 2003, the US expanded its military activity and presence in Kuwait, which served as a transit area when US troops were taken home from Iraq and later Afghanistan. Kuwait has also backed the 2014 US fight against the Islamic State (IS) extreme Islamist movement. At the same time, groups in Kuwait have been funding the Islamists.

Along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait has supported governments in neighboring countries financially when they appear to be under pressure from popular protest waves. In 2018, both Jordan and the Sunni Muslim royal house in Bahrain received such support packages.

In 2004, Kuwait and Iraq reestablished their diplomatic relations for the first time since 1990, but only in July 2008 did Kuwait appoint an ambassador to Baghdad; In 2010, an Iraqi ambassador to Kuwait was appointed. Kuwait has actively participated in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Kuwait’s relationship with Iran is usually better than many other GCC countries, although there are grits from time to time. Kuwait relies on good relations with Iran and has supported the country’s right to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. Even more important, however, is the relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has often been supported by Kuwait in its foreign policy. Among other things, Kuwait has taken part in the Saudi-led attacks against the Shiite Muslim Shire rebels in Yemen, which began in March 2015. Since Saudi Arabia broke its ties with Iran in early 2016, Kuwait has also reduced its diplomatic presence in Tehran. In the summer of 2017, Kuwait announced that 15 Iranian diplomats must leave the country as a result of a verdict against members of an alleged terrorist cell with links to Iran (see Calendar).

With Turkey there is an agreement on certain cooperation in the field of defense (see Calendar).


Army: 11 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 2,500 men (2017)

The fleet: 2,000 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 5.8 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 11.3 percent (2017)



The government is leaving again

The government resigns after some MPs tried to answer Nasir for failing to fulfill his office; the revolting members believe that corruption with state funds has increased during Nasir’s tenure.


Islamist successes in recent elections

The campaign before the election is dominated by financial issues. Islamists, both Sunnis and Shi’ites, win 26 of the 50 seats. Liberal candidates get seven seats. None of the 27 women who are candidates are elected. Sheikh Nasir is again commissioned to form a government.


The government is retiring

The government resigns after a dispute with Parliament, which wanted to raise the salaries of civil servants. Parliament is dissolved and new elections announced in May.