New Russo-Saudi relations take off at Kremlin!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Relations between high profile veto member Russia and Saudi Arabia, a long time strong US ally in West Asia, and Russian super power have improved considerably with the first ever historic visit of Saudi ruler Salman. His visit to Russia, a former communist country with which Saudis did not communicate much during the entire Cold war era and collaborated with USA to oust Russian forces from Afghanistan that eventually led the end of Cold War and end of communist rule in Russia, would be a milestone in the history of international affairs.
In fact, USA for several decades now controlled Saudi’s relations especially with West and Russia.
King Salman’s visit to Russia has generated enough media speculations on the future of US-Arab/Gulf relations, especially when after misusing it’s another long ally Pakistan to advance its South Asia interests America has very tactfully shelved it and began criticizing and insulting it on behalf of India.
Maybe, the Syrian war scenario has raised the most questions, given that Moscow and Riyadh support opposing sides in the conflict. Saudi Arabia wants Assad to leave but Russian shields him as a part of its military relationship with Iran. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for talks at the Kremlin on October 05, cementing a relationship that is pivotal for world oil prices and could decide the outcome of the conflict in Syria. Putin received the monarch in the gold-decorated St. Andrew Hall, one of the grandest spaces in the Kremlin, attended by soldiers in ceremonial dress and with an orchestra playing their countries’ national anthems. “I am sure that your visit will provide a good impulse for the development of relations between our two states,” Putin told King Salman as they sat alongside each other in the Kremlin’s lavishly decorated Green Parlor. “This is the first visit by a Saudi monarch in the history of our relations and that in itself is a landmark event,” Putin said.
The king invited Putin to visit his country — an offer the Russian leader accepted — and said they planned to keep cooperating to keep world oil prices stable.
King Salman told Putin that Iran must stop meddling in the Middle East, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported. “We emphasize that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East is an urgent necessity for achieving stability and security in Yemen,” the king said. “This would demand that Iran give up interference with the internal affairs of the region, to give up actions destabilizing the situation in this region.”
King Salman and President Putin signed a slew of arms and energy deals.
Saudi Arabia signed preliminary agreements to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense systems and anti-tank guided missile systems and receive “cutting-edge technologies,” the state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) said.
The leaders of the world’s largest energy exporters discussed an extension of an OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) agreement to cap oil output. The two countries signed a series of multibillion-dollar investment deals including one to create a $1 billion fund to pursue energy projects.
These agreements are “expected to play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the military and military systems industry in Saudi Arabia.
Following the meeting in the Russian capital, the two countries launched a joint energy investment fund worth $1 billion, while Saudi state oil firm Aramco penned preliminary agreements on oil refining with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Russian resources group Sibur. Additionally, Russia’s state atomic corporation Rosatom and the Saudi Energy Ministry signed a nuclear energy cooperation accord. Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said: “We have a vast potential for developing cooperation in nuclear power. Nuclear power may become one of the basic sources and an extra catalyst for the development of various industries and innovation technologies in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Novak said the two countries’ business circles maintain intensive dialogue, and he pointed out that the Saudi delegation to Moscow included 85 chief executives of major Saudi companies.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have a joint interest in diversifying their economies away from oil as the price is still trading well below historic highs. Te two countries “could join forces” and “solve some of the issues in Syria …we can solve lots of geopolitical issues by working together”.
Further, Moscow and Riyadh worked together to secure a deal between OPEC and other oil producers to cut output until the end of March 2018, helping support prices.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia is “flexible” regarding Moscow’s suggestion to extend the pact until the end of next year.
Agreements on global oil supply have helped oil markets to stabilize, Al-Falih said.
He said Saudi Arabia wants to develop ties with Russia further, particularly in the private sector.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said agreements came in the fields of “energy — not only traditional but also nuclear power — and also in cooperation in space exploration (and) agro-industry and infrastructure projects.” Later, speaking at a news briefing, Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia is working closely with Russia on uniting Syria’s opposition, adding that Moscow and Riyadh agreed on the need to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and state institutions. Al-Jubeir also said that both Russia and Saudi Arabia believe in the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and in the principle of territorial integrity. Lavrov focused on the common ground, saying the two leaders had agreed on the importance of fighting terrorism, and finding peaceful solutions to conflicts in the Middle East. Lavrov said the meeting between the Saudi monarch and Putin saw a “particular focus on Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.”
Separately, the Russian-Saudi Investment Forum concluded in Moscow with announcements of joint business and investment projects. Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), said: “We’re working on improving the level of FDI (foreign direct investment) to the Kingdom by attracting more investments. We’re working to give the private sector a bigger share in the market.” The energy minister said bilateral cooperation in the last two years has benefited the oil market by stabilizing prices. “It has breathed back life into OPEC, which found itself… unable to swing its production as supply was persistently high in 2014 and global inventories were steadily rising ahead of demand,” Al-Falih added.
The evolving relationship was about more than supporting the oil price. It was about cementing a wider business relationship. He said the two states would shortly unveil a Saudi investment in Russian toll roads, illustrating their joint interest in infrastructure projects. He also referred to a 2015 deal when the Public Investment Fund (PIF) agreed to invest $10 billion in Russia. “Around 95 percent” of planned projects [linked to that deal] related to “non-oil assets,
Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Russia had helped breathe new life into OPEC and that shale can be a major contributor to the market in years to come. “We welcome the contributions of shale as demand approaches 100 million barrels (per day) next year and continues rising,” he said. Speaking at a CNBC-moderated plenary session at Russia Energy week 2017, Al-Falih said predictions shale producers would bounce back at certain price points had proven incorrect. He said: “We believe unreasonable expectations that shale will somehow spring up at certain prices and grow exponentially have been proven to be way unrealistic.”
The price of oil collapsed from near $120 a barrel in June 2014 due to weak demand, a strong dollar and booming US shale production.
Putin said the agreement to cut oil production last year between OPEC and non-OPEC countries could be extended beyond March 2018 but an announcement was unlikely before the next OPEC meeting in Vienna at the end of November.
On defense, Saudi Arabia said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on the purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia’s state arms exporter.
With trade between Russia and Iran being below $2 billion (compared to $40 billion with Turkey), Russia is interested in balancing Tehran politically and in exploring economic opportunities with Saudi Arabia, the largest global military spender (around 10 percent of the Saudi GDP goes to military expenditure),
After his first ever Friday Juma prayers in Moscow, Saudi King Salman on Friday said he and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stressed the importance of ending the suffering of the Palestinian people and achieving a just, comprehensive and permanent peace for the Palestinian question.
The bilateral meeting was described as a “landmark event” by President Putin as it was the first visit to Russia by a reigning Saudi Arabian monarch and was held despite differences between Riyadh and Moscow over the Syrian civil war.
King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed deals worth billions of dollars to strengthen energy, defense and business ties. Relations have been improving between the two nations with an energy pact forged last year when 24-oil exporting countries, including Saudi Arabia and Russia – the two largest oil exporting nations – agreed to cut output to halt the downward drift of the oil price. That agreement, to March 2018, President Putin said, could be extended.
During their meeting in Moscow, they agreed that “accomplishing peace and stability in the Gulf and Middle East region, with the crises it is currently witnessing in Yemen and Syria, requires Iran to halt its expansionist policies, commit itself to the principles of good neighborliness, respect international norms and laws, and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other nations. ” We look forward to Russia’s participation and its cooperation in implementing the programs of this vision in a way that serves our common interests.” He added: “The efforts of our countries in the field of oil have borne fruit in reaching an agreement for reducing production and achieving a balance between the interests of consumers and producers. We stress our commitment to the stability of the international oil market.”
Saudi Arabia’s decision to diversify its military arsenal and buy arms from Russia as proof is in tune with global phenomenon of enhanced militarization. Saudi Arabia, surrounded by hostile neighbors and militias, has a right to defend itself. And like any country in the world, it has a right to procure weapons that serve its defense requirements.
King Salman said his country “is going through a historical and fundamental phase of total development, which has been translated into Vision 2030. Riyadh is also perfectly capable of maintaining positive relations with different countries, without these relations affecting its strategic and genuine partnerships with major allies such as the US. Last but not least, as significant as King Salman’s visit is, it is only a start and a step forward. There is a way to go, and much to do on both sides, before Saudi-Russian relations can be deemed strategic.
Premier Medvedev praised the talks between King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin on developing bilateral cooperation in all fields. “I will today give all the necessary directions to the ministers in order to realize the achieved agreements as soon as possible,” said Medvedev, calling Saudi Arabia an important partner in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is keen to develop relations with Russia, King Salman said, a sentiment echoed by Medvedev, who expressed the Russian government’s pleasure with the monarch’s visit.
Given the high-profile visit and the billions of dollars being invested, the obvious question is whether or not Riyadh — which holds the brutal Assad regime responsible for the catastrophe in Syria — has conceded to Moscow on this front.
It is unlikely both would fight as US allies from one side. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir reiterated Riyadh’s commitment to its beliefs, and argued that improved relations with Moscow will help unify the Syrian opposition and get them to become more active in negotiations.
While this is not an immediate remedy for the suffering of the Syrian people, it goes without saying that closer cooperation between two highly influential capitals such as Riyadh and Moscow will definitely help find a solution, as opposed to each side taking its corner and refusing to engage positively.
After all, anyone who does not acknowledge Russia’s significance in the Middle East must have not been paying attention to the shrinking US role. This is a reality today thanks primarily to former President Barack Obama and his ill-advised foreign policy. As such, Riyadh — as a regional powerhouse — must engage with Moscow for the sake of its own interests and those of the region.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said that relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a historic moment.
Obviously, America would be the most nervous nation on earth as Putin holds trade talks with Saudi king. But now it can do very precious little, even if it wants, to disturb the growing ties between its arch foe Russia and uneasy ally Saudi Arabia.
The western commentators argue that the visit seems to want to leave the USA “out in the cold.” But going by the a prolonged relation between Saudi Arabia and USA, this can only be an overt exaggeration, as former President George W. Bush’s infamous “you’re either with us or against us” approach to foreign policy would reveal all that. . It goes without saying that the Saudi-US relationship is a long-lasting strategic one. Like any relation it has its ups and downs, but no right-minded analyst can ignore the positive impact that President Donald Trump has had, or the fact that since this year’s Riyadh Summit, Saudi-US relations have reached unprecedented heights.
For its own reasons Russia cannot be an ally of USA in its terror wars to showcase its military prowess as an advertisement for sales of high precision terror goods and equipment particularly to third world. .
Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Author believes that humanity has a right to know whole truth.