Saudi Arabia and Russia: tactics, not partnership

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October 8, 2017 – Fort Russ News –

– German Business News, translated by Tom Winter –

“Russian President Vladimir Putin (r) receives the king of Audi Arabia Salman bin Abdelasis al-Saud”

Russia and Saudi Arabia: more tactics than partnership

Russia and Saudi Arabia are holding talks. The Russians are primarily concerned to dissuade the Saudis from exporting Islamic mercenaries.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Moscow has been interpreted differently by international observers: US President Donald Trump’s opponents see the supposed rapprochement between Russia and Saudi Arabia as a direct result of an American loss of influence in the Middle East. This was due to Trumps’ inner-political difficulties – which, however, were instigated ironically by precisely those forces that now accuse Trump of incapacity for action.

King Salman is the first Saudi Arabian monarch to visit Russia. On his caravan route from the airport of Vnukovo to the city center of Moscow late Wednesday evening, he was welcomed by his own portrait on posters with welcoming signs in Russian and Arabic. President Vladimir Putin received him on Thursday in the gold-decorated Andreas Hall of the Kremlin. After the meeting, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Djubeir spoke of a “historical moment” in the joint relations.

Russia, however, mainly had to pursue one goal in greeting King Salman this week with such unusual bombast: The Russians want to end the war in Syria. They are in the strongest military position. But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is already thinking past the war. Even if the Russians are now militarily beating the Islamic mercenaries financed by the Saudis in Syria, Moscow does not have any guarantee that the Saudis and others will not export and deploy the model elsewhere. The developments in Myanmar are a clear warning to the Russians.

Putin and Trump, on the other hand, are pulling together in the same direction: Trump in Riyadh demanded that all the Gulf States break away from terrorism and also from financing the CIA-led mercenary units.

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For Russia, it is important to win over the Saudis, too for a political solution after the end of the war: TASS quotes from the statement of King Salman, which lets it be known that the Saudis are no longer fundamentally opposed to the Russian proposals: “There has to be a political solution that guarantees the security, stability and territorial integrity of Syria,” King Salman said. If the Saudis actually officially recognize the territorial integrity of Syria, that would be a great success for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Saudis, on the other hand, are pursuing the tactics of curbing Iranian influence in Syria. The Israelis have already tried this. Both of them know that Russia is the most important guarantor-power in Syria, and that it concludes individual agreements, with which, for instance, they put limits on Iran as Asaad Hanna writes at Chatham House.*

In order to prevent Saudis in the long term from sending Islamic mercenaries into regions critical for Russia, Moscow wants to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in the field of energy and armaments. Interestingly, both the Russian state portal Sputnik and the US-funded Moscow Times conclude that economic deals have long been talked about, but the Saudis have never gone beyond non-binding declarations of intent.

This applies especially to armor. According to Reuters, on Thursday billions and billions of dealings were announced, including the purchase of a Russian air defense system and missiles. The Moscow Times writes that in 2015 Riyadh had already made an investment of 10 billion dollars in Russia. But not a single binding contract followed the declaration. Already last year, the head of the Russian armaments company Rosoboronexport had said that the Saudis had conducted talks on weapons for political and tactical reasons, without contracts being concluded.

Saudi Arabia announced, among other things, an intention to purchase the Russian air defense system S-400. The state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (Sami) also talked of an agreement with the Russian armor company Rosoboronexport on purchases of the anti-tank rocket “Kornet”, of rocket launchers of the type TOS-1A and other systems. In a statement of intent, it was stated that Russia could help the kingdom build its own armaments industry.

However, Saudi Arabia traditionally buys most of its weapons from American and British manufacturers. President Trump had agreed on a billions of armor packages with the Kingdom on his first trip abroad in May – which raises the question why the Saudis would be buying weapons from the Russians on a grand scale.

Sputnik comments, “Saudi Arabia has been a not-so-reliable partner in the past when it comes to weapon exports. For example, Riyadh had already talked about gun purchases in Russia worth tens of billions of dollars, but this was conditional on the fact that Moscow not deliver its S-300 systems to Riad’s archenemy Tehran. Under such demands, the deal collapsed.” The Russians now want to deliver their rockets only cash in advance.

In the energy sector, the situation is somewhat different: the governments in Moscow and Riyadh are among the driving forces behind limiting the oil production, with which several Opec and non-Opec countries jointly want to stabilize prices on world markets. King Salman said his country’s cooperation with Russia in this area would continue. Saudi Arabian energy minister Chalid Al-Falid told Al-Arabiya that the kingdom wanted to keep the option to extend this agreement beyond March. Putin, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that the countries involved were ready to extend the agreement.

Which concrete agreements really get concluded at the end remains unclear. The FT reported on a joint investment fund over a billion dollars. The FAZ writes of the possibility that the Saudis could import Russian liquefied gas (LNG). Reuters, however, reports that balloon, which somebody had let rise in the course of the talks, had already burst: Saudi Aramco said that they would not invest in Russia’s Arctic LNG project.
Your translator found the apparent reference: Russia Muscles in.

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