Qatar military

Qatar is spending billions to build up its military capabilities, purchasing aircraft and warships.

Last week, the Qatari foreign minister announced that a multi-billion dollar deal to purchase Italian warships had been finalized.

"We have signed a contract on behalf of the Qatari navy to acquire seven warships from Italy for five billion euros ($5.9 billion)," FM Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said, according to UK Defence Journal

The deal includes the purchase of four corvettes (a type of small warship), an amphibious vessel (to launch air forces) and two patrol boats. Previously, in June, the emirate signed a deal with the United States to purchase F-15 fighter planes for $12 billion.

Qatar military
Qatar has purchased fighter jets and warships in 2017

The purchases come at a time of heightened regional tensions

Qatar is currently facing an economic and diplomatic blockade from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The four countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorist groups and fomenting tensions in the region.

The countries are currently negotiating the crisis with the help of Kuwait as a mediator. However, Qatar has rejected the demands of its former allies, insisting that its sovereignty is under threat.

As the crisis has continued, fiery rhetoric has stemmed from both sides, with some experts suggesting war as a possible outcome. 

At the end of July, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of calling for the "internationalization" of Saudi Arabia's holy sites, such as Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the call as "a declaration of war against the kingdom." 

However, the claim was soon denied by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in an interview with Al Jazeera. 

"Qatar never politicized the issue of Hajj. It was Saudi Arabia trying to politicize the Hajj pilgrimage amid the Gulf crisis," Al Thani said.

Previously, representatives from the blockading countries have hinted that all options – even war with Qatar – are on the table to resolve the crisis.

For its part, Qatar has been welcoming the arrival of Turkish troops at a military base within its borders. Turkey's leaders have expressed solidarity and support with Qatar throughout the crisis.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar
Saudi King Salman (L), Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad (R)

But Qatar's defense spending is dwarfed by its allies

While Qatar has insisted that it is not afraid of the economic blockade due to its vast wealth, it's less likely that the tiny emirate would be able to adequately defend itself if the possibility of war arose.

While the emirate agreed to $18 billion in military deals this year, thus far, that amount is dwarfed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia was the world's fourth highest spender on its military in 2016, with nearly $64 billion in expenditures. The UAE was among the top 15 countries, spending about $23 billion.

Egypt also is considered to have the most powerful military in the Arab world. The country also recently opened the largest military base in the Middle East.