Russia and Saudi Arabia: A Gradual Expansion of Bilateral Cooperation

Vladimir Putin’s visit to Riyadh cannot be considered a breakthrough or a new stage in the strengthening of Russian-Saudi ties. Rather, it can be seen as another step aimed at maintaining contacts and identifying possible areas of cooperation, as well as a continuation of cooperation in those areas where it is already being implemented. However, serious differences in the positions of the respective parties regarding threats to regional security do not allow for cooperation in building a single concept that would guarantee regional stability.

For Saudi Arabia, the main threat to regional security is the policy of Iran, which, according to Riyadh, interferes in the affairs of the Arab countries, supports anti-government groups in these countries and violates the regional military-political balance by building up its military potential, primarily with respect to missiles. Therefore, the Concept of collective security in the Persian Gulf zone, presented by Russia, did not become a topic of discussion between the parties during the visit of the Russian president. All comments in the local media point to the fact, that too-close relations between Moscow and Tehran are the main problem hindering Russia's constructive participation in the building of a regional security system. At the same time, Russia’s interest in solving this problem is welcomed, as it is one of the leading world powers, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a country that has the ability to influence decision-making on this issue at the international level.

During the Russian-Saudi negotiations, it was noted that the parties are united in a common approach: to resolve all conflicts through diplomacy. Russia and Saudi Arabia interact in the fight against terrorism and extremism, which are considered the main threats to regional and global security.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would like Russia to put pressure on Iran and influence its policy in the region, but this is hardly possible. At the same time, while Russia cannot act as an intermediary for negotiations on a comprehensive security concept, it can address some of the aspects of such a framework that are relevant for both sides. First of all, it can promote maritime safety and the safety of energy transportation routes, as well as oil facilities. A lack of security can have the most negative consequences for the Arab states of the Gulf and Iran as the largest suppliers of raw material related to energy production. This can lead to higher oil prices and destabilise the global oil market. 

During the visit of the Russian president, a business forum was held with participation of businessmen from both countries. A number of agreements were signed covering areas such as trade, joint economic projects and space development. Investment cooperation is developing fairly successfully through the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. No new agreements have been signed on military-technical cooperation, while the old ones have not yet been implemented. The kingdom receives most of its weapons from the United States, which is its strategic ally.

Of particular importance regarding Russia and Saudi Arabia is their interaction in the field of energy. The parties agreed to continue to coordinate their efforts to maintain stability in the global energy market through the OPEC+ format.

In general, the visit was important for both parties, as it confirmed the possibility of a gradual expansion of bilateral cooperation.

Vladimir Putin in Saudi Arabia and the UAE: Economic Cooperation and Political Contacts
Boris Dolgov
The recent visits of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided a significant impetus to the development of cooperation between Russia and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Peaceful interaction in the economic, political and cultural spheres is, of course, in the interests of all parties. It will play a positive role in finding ways to resolve conflicts in the region.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.