Bilateral Relations

Vladimir Putin in Saudi Arabia and the UAE: Economic Cooperation and Political Contacts

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, writes Boris Dolgov, Senior Research Fellow at the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies’ Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies.

As a result of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia, Russian-Saudi cooperation can gain a new impetus, especially in the economic sphere: namely, in hydrocarbon projects, innovation-related areas, and the development of the latest technologies. It also it strengthens the role of Russia in OPEC+.

In the political sphere, a rapprochement of the positions of the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia on the Syrian conflict is possible, as well as the Yemen conflict, to a certain extent. However, we should keep in mind that in these conflicts, a stable anti-Iranian position prevails among the Saudis.

Moscow could contribute to a possible mitigation of the confrontation between Riyadh and Tehran, for example, by providing a Russian channel for possible contacts to be maintained between the Saudis and Iranians. In any case, this is a complex, multifaceted and long-standing conflict.

The Russian leadership should also take into account that the United States is a strategic ally of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi business elite and the military are closely linked with the United States, which largely ensures that the current ruling Saudi dynasty remains in power. This factor plays an important role in Saudi foreign policy and may contain the development of Russian-Saudi cooperation.

However, Russian weapons have every chance to enter the Saudi market, especially since the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia already have experience engaging in military-technical cooperation. However, the Saudi army mainly relies on American and Western European weapons. In any event, the Saudis can also purchase Russian weapons for political reasons, and expect Russia to take into account Saudi political interests in the region in exchange for these purchases.

The visit of the president of the Russian Federation to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which heads the GCC, provides a significant impetus for the development of cooperation between Russia and the GCC countries. Such a development in the economic, political and cultural spheres is certainly in the interests of both parties, and will also play a positive role in finding ways to resolve conflicts that take place in the region. Russia’s Collective Security Concept for the Gulf offers real ways to restore and maintain stability in the region. Nevertheless, the countries of the region have their own interests, which often lead to confrontations. To overcome them, political contacts and compromises are needed, which can be facilitated via the visit of the Russian President and the Russian Security Concept, if implemented.

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