Kuwait -- FOREIGN RELATIONS
As the Iraqi invasion demonstrated, Kuwait's large oil revenues
and inherently small defense capabilities gave it tremendous vulnerability.
Historically, until the Iraqi invasion, Kuwaiti leaders had always
dealt with that vulnerability through diplomacy, trying to find
allies that would protect them while maintaining as much independence
as possible from those allies by playing them off against each
other. Historically, the most important ally was Britain. Kuwait's
relationship with Britain came about at the bidding of the early
Kuwaiti leader Shaykh Mubarak in an effort to deter a still more
troublesome actor, the Ottoman Empire. As one consequence of the
1899 treaty, which gave Kuwait a better status than was the case
in British treaties with other possessions, the British presence
remained somewhat distant, and British officials meddled less
frequently in local politics.
The relationship with Britain continued beyond independence on
June 19, 1961, and the new agreement between independent Kuwait
and Britain promised continued British protection as necessary.
That protection proved necessary when Iraq, six days after Kuwait's
independence, declared Kuwait a part of Iraq and sent troops toward
the amirate in support of that claim. Because Kuwait's army was
too small to defend the state, British troops arrived, followed
soon after by forces from the League of Arab States (Arab League),
in the face of which Iraqi forces withdrew.
As Britain increasingly withdrew from the gulf in the 1970s and
1980s, Kuwait was forced to look for other sources of support.
Although Kuwaiti leaders tried to maintain a degree of neutrality
between the superpowers--Kuwait had an early and sustained economic,
military, and diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Union--in
the end it was obliged to turn to the United States for support.
The Iran-Iraq War was the decisive factor in consolidating closer
ties with the United States. Although at the outset of the war
Kuwait was an outspoken critic of United States military presence
in the gulf, during the war this position changed. When Kuwaiti
ships became the target of Iranian attacks, Kuwait's security
situation deteriorated, and Kuwait approached the Soviet Union
and the United States with requests to reflag and thus protect
its beleaguered tankers. As soon as the Soviet Union responded
positively to the request, the United States followed. The ground
was thus laid for subsequent United States support.
Data as of January 1993