Saudi Arabia and Russia are not Foes

With steady steps, Russia returned over the past decade to the Middle Eastern arena. This coincides with the development of its relations with Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the Syrian regime, and surely Iran.

However, Moscow’s relations with Saudi Arabia were going through rocky roads after which tensions became high following different positions on the Syrian crisis.

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing the relations between the two countries is the Syrian issue. It remained a complicated point of disagreement between both countries and a barrier to the development of the bilateral relations despite several attempts.

However, after decades of discords, June 2015 was crucial in restoring the Saudi-Russian relations during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Russia under the directives of King Salman.

Riyadh and Moscow reached an inevitable result in their future relations that they would rather focus more on common interests available in promising fields rather than disagreeing on issues that affected them negatively.

One can say that Riyadh succeeded back then in breaking the ice in its relations with Moscow.

Prince Mohammed’s visit was reflected in the country’s success to overcome the Syrian crisis. They both realized that what brings them together is much more important than disparities.

King Salman’s current visit to Russia is a decisive development in the course of Saudi-Russian relations. The visit aims to eliminate elements that affected the relations, or as the Russian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia said that some parties are trying to target the Saudi-Russian relations through the Syrian issue.

Through King Salman’s visit to Russia, a new phase of a coalition began based on joint interests that will be reflected on the region’s stability and security which is a strategic goal both Riyadh and Moscow aim to reach.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia continues to present itself as a regional and international player that is indispensable.

Saudi foreign policymakers are credited for taking into consideration long-term planning in their relations with Russia through a packet of strategic relations.

Side differences or even special relations with the West can’t hinder the success of the Saudi-Russian partnership.

Saudis are also credited for adopting a balanced foreign policy based on diverse options through openness to Russia as well as other international forces.

Saudi policy aims to diversify its activity with different partners which grant it the ability to manage the international relations on common interests.

Needless to say that as soon as this partnership is activated economically, commercially, and militarily Moscow will have to balance its complicated relationship with Iran.

Architects of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy are aware of this aspect especially after Tehran took advantage that Riyadh steered clear of Kremlin’s maze.

Indeed, Riyadh disagrees with Moscow on the Syrian issue. But, at the time it is adopting a realistic policy aimed at establishing partners and not allies on the basis of exchanged interests, Saudi Arabia realizes that there is a lot to be achieved from strong relations with Russia.

With 60 percent of Russia’s budget revenues from oil imports, the kingdom is aware that Moscow prioritizes a sort of coordination and agreement with Riyadh on oil prices and production.

For the first time, the two countries succeeded in leading the international oil market out of the most critical crisis. They managed to leave the bottleneck and reach a price close to $60 after it fell below $28 two years ago.

During an energy forum in Moscow attended by several OPEC oil ministers, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday: “Everyone is interested in a stable market. What we did with OPEC, I believe, is beneficial for all the global economy.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia appeared as though they were enemies separated by miles apart. Several attempts to reproach the two countries failed until facts and realities proved that the two states are not like that at all.

King Salman’s visit to Russia is a historic moment that will drive both countries closer and the relations will enter a new phase of further understanding and deeper cooperation.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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