Riyadh-Moscow: Toward a strategic relationship

November 08, 2017
Riyadh-Moscow: Toward a strategic relationship
Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Being the first visit of its kind for a Saudi king, the historic visit of King Salman to Moscow represented a quantum leap in Riyadh-Moscow relations. In fact, it is a new phase in the desired strategic partnership, which hopes to achieve common interests and enhance regional and global security and stability. In recent decades, starting from 1990, the diplomatic activity between Riyadh and Moscow has followed various twists and turns. The path of Riyadh-Moscow relations has relied heavily on regional issues.

Once King Salman took power, Saudi foreign policy saw a clear shift toward adopting a firm approach and engaging directly to play a central role in regional security and stability. In addition, the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 seeks to enhance Saudi Arabia’s global stature as a centrer of economy and development by giving the Saudi investment environment a boost in its transition to the post-oil phase. Hence, Saudi Arabia realizes the significance of building closer ties with Russia driven by common interests.

Russia is one of the world’s most influential countries as it has the largest natural gas reserves in the world. In addition, it is ranked 12th in the world in terms of GDP, and 6th in purchase power. Thus, Saudi coordination and cooperation with Russia is essential for regional security and stability and for seizing investment opportunities in the Russian industry.

Moreover, in view of the sharp decline in oil prices in the past two years, cooperation with Russia as a non-OPEC country also serves the stability of oil markets. “Without Saudi-Russian cooperation, it is impossible to have a stable oil policy,” Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has stated on several occasions.

Herein lies the importance of visits by the Crown Prince to Russia in 2015 and 2017 during which he met with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Both parties agreed to overcome their past differences to start working on areas of common interests and pushing their relations forward into a new phase of partnership in different areas. The visits resulted in the signing of several agreements of cooperation in the fields of energy, armaments, investment and continuing dialogue and coordination to discuss regional and international issues of common concern.

The Saudi–Russian summit between King Salman and President Vladimir Putin discussed several political, military, economic, investment and oil issues. The summit revealed that both parties share the same political stand on most international issues. Saudi Arabia is clear about its stand on combating and curbing the sources of terrorism, and stopping Iran’s interference in the region, in addition to the emphasis on the need for a political solution to the crises of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, in accordance with international resolutions that preserve their unity.

On the economic level, a joint investment fund worth one billion dollars was established between the two parties. As far as military cooperation is concerned, Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase the advanced S-400 missile defense system.

I think the Saudi–Russian summit and its resulting agreement on different levels marks a new era of strategic partnership and proposes a road map in all areas to serve the interests of both parties and the security and stability of the region and the world.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin

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