Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: What happened in Russia? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh’s recent efforts to restore warmth to its ties with Moscow must have surprised some and raised eyebrows among others. At the same time, the step may have enthused those who have waited for such rapprochement to happen. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s official visit to Russia has started a new phase in the Saudi-Russian relations.

This new phase will not be affected by the past as much as aim at serving both countries’ interests, no matter how contradictory their positions are on other issues.

Maintaining relations to a level that is convenient to both Saudi Arabia and Russia will at least lead both sides to better understand their differences. This is not to mention that chilly ties would not be very useful in achieving convergence of views. For example, their contradictory positions on Syria should not prevent them from cooperating in other aspects, whether economic, military or even political. One should give Moscow credit for not engaging in political machinations against Saudi Arabia. This became apparent in its positive stance towards UN Security Council resolution 2216 on Yemen that gave an added political push for the international coalition’s efforts to restore legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power. If Moscow wanted to annoy Riyadh, it could have vetoed the resolution, undermining the colossal diplomatic efforts of Saudi Arabia.

The question many would ask: Does the new Saudi approach constitute a response to America’s policies in the region? In my opinion, those following the Saudi foreign policy under the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz will notice Riyadh’s strong desire to give diplomacy an added push that is in line with the shifts taking place in the world and the region. Riyadh is of the view that it has the right to pursue a balanced foreign policy based on common interests. Therefore, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement should not be viewed as a message to Washington or a reaction to its regional policy. Saudi Arabia has never, throughout its history, adopted such an approach. Moreover, the historic and strategic alliance between Saudi Arabia and US will remain steadfast and of an extreme significance to Riyadh. In fact, Saudi Arabia cannot abandon its alliance with US. On the other hand, Washington itself realizes that expanding economic and political relations of its allies is a key factor in maintaining security and stability of the region and the world. Certainly, Washington would not benefit from tensions arising between Riyadh and Moscow.

What happened is that Riyadh and Moscow have reached the inevitable conclusion that they should concentrate more on common interests than on differences.