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Diana Dikhanbayeva. Results and possible geopolitical consequences of the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia Salman to the Russian Federation

On October 5-8, 2017 King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for the first time visited the capital of Russia, thus moving relations between Moscow and Riyadh to a qualitatively new level [1]. The main event of the program of the Saudi King in Moscow was his meeting with the President of the Russian Federation V.Putin. In addition, King Salman held talks with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and visited MGIMO University, where he was conferred the title of Doctor Honoris Causa [2]. In the course of the visit, 14 documents were signed on cooperation in various fields – space exploration, energy, communications, trade, culture, etc. [3].

 

International issues as a focus of the visit

The central theme of the talks between King Salman and President Vladimir Putin was the settlement of the Syrian conflict. In the opinion of both negotiators and the experts, the meeting brought together the positions of the two states and reaffirmed their desire for the conflict to be resolved by peaceful means, through political dialogue with the participation of all interested parties [4].

Commenting on the results of the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: «King Salman positively assessed the efforts being made on the Syrian settlement within the framework of the Astana format. In its turn, the Russian side supports the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to unite the Syrian opposition »[5].

In his turn, the Foreign Minister of KSA Adel al-Jubair said: «In fact, Russia is providing significant support to our efforts to unite the opposition, like the Americans and representatives of European countries. So I think this will be a positive step towards the political process» [6].

The settlements of other conflicts in the Arab East were discussed in detail in Kremlin. Thus, Minister Al-Jubair stressed: «In Iraq, we stand for the unity of the country and support the Iraqi government in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). In Yemen, we want a political solution based on the initiative of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the outcome of the Yemeni National Dialogue and UN Security Council Resolution 2216, in Libya we support the efforts of the UN representative to bring all parties together» [7].

During the talks, King Salman stressed the importance of consolidation in the fight against terrorism: «Today the international community is called upon to intensify efforts to combat extremism, terrorism and sources of its financing» [8]. The Saudi King noted «the immense danger that terrorism and extremism poses for the security of states and people» and called for the creation of an international center for combating terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations [9].

 

Prospects for military-technical cooperation

As a result of the talks, a memorandum on the purchase and localization of products of the military-industrial complex was signed. M. Vorobyeva, the official representative of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said that the Russian Federation and KSA had agreed on the supply of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, Kornet-EM missile systems, TOS-1A systems, automatic AGS-30 grenade launchers and AK-103 Kalashnikov assault rifles [10].

The acquisition of S-400 missile systems from the Russian Federation by Riyadh caused concern for the United States. In this regard, representatives of the Pentagon said: «The United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong and significant relationship in the field of trade in defense and military products. We have concerns about the purchase of S-400 systems, since we emphasize the importance of maintaining interoperability with US and regional systems in the procurement of any major defense systems to ensure interoperability against common threats» [11].

 

Prospects for economic cooperation

During the talks, special attention was paid to the development of economic cooperation between the KSA and the Russia. In this regard, the Saudi King noted: «There are great opportunities for expanding, diversifying the base of economic cooperation between our countries, for creating a trade and economic investment base that would be able to increase the use of specific features that our states have in the interests of two countries and in the interests of developing trade exchange in all directions in accordance with the program «Saudi Vision 2030» [12].

King Salman also expressed hope for the continuation of positive cooperation between the two countries: «We are striving to continue positive cooperation between our countries in order to achieve stability in the world oil markets, which contributes to the growth of the world economy» [13].

Following the meeting parties signed a package of documents, which makes evident the mutual interest of the KSA and Russia to build up economic ties in various fields. In particular, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) have agreed to create a $ 1 billion platform for investment in the technology sector.

The new structure will focus on finding attractive investment opportunities in the Russian high-tech sector, including companies from e-commerce, digital infrastructure, big data, etc. It is planned to create another platform for investments in the energy sector, which will be created by these funds with the participation of the state oil company Saudi Aramco [14].

Rosatom and the Ministry of Energy KSA signed a program of cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. The head of Rosatom, A.Likhachev, said that the country began to search for vendors for the construction of a large-scale nuclear power plant in the KSA, and Rosatom has already officially expressed its interest in this project by sending the relevant document [15].

In turn, Gazprom Neft and Saudi Aramco have agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector, involving companies in such areas as the improvement of pumping systems, the development of drilling and repair technologies, and the development of large non-metallic pipes [16].

In addition, the KSA and RF showed interest in the possible extension of the OPEC + deal, which has already allowed the budgets of Saudi Arabia and Russia to additionally raise about $ 40 billion [17].

During the talks with King Salman, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the readiness of the Russian authorities to do everything necessary to implement the signed agreements as soon as possible: «As the Prime Minister I would like to say that today I will give all the necessary instructions to the ministers so that all agreements, which were achieved by you, were realized as soon as possible» [18].

Thus, it can be argued that the visit of the Saudi monarch to the Russian capital marks a new stage in constructive cooperation between the KSA and the Russian Federation on economic, political and even military issues.

Firstly, despite the fact that the Saudis support the Syrian opposition, representing the Sunni majority, King Salman positively assessed Moscow’s efforts in the Syrian settlement, which testifies to the recognition of Russia as an important actor in Syria.

Secondly, the expansion of bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sphere will give a powerful impetus to the world oil market, which will allow stabilizing prices and strengthening coordination.

Thirdly, the deepening of cooperation between Russia and the KSA in the sphere of military-technical cooperation is an indicator of the growing trust between the two countries and indicates the gradual termination of the US monopoly on special relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf.

In general, as a result of the visit of King Salman to Moscow, relations between Moscow and Riyadh reached a «historic moment» as evidenced by the statement of Foreign Minister KSA Adel Al-Jubeyr: «They acquired an institutional character, all state structures take part in their development. Investment cooperation has been launched, trade between the two countries is being strengthened, and intensive consultations are being held on all issues. Al-Jubair noted that the relationship between the KSA and the Russian Federation reached «new horizons that we could not even imagine before» [19].

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[1] What stronger Saudi-Russian ties signify — and what they do not //http://www.arabnews.com/node/1173071

[2] Королю Саудовской Аравии присвоили звание почетного доктора МГИМО //https://ria.ru/society/20171007/1506392844.html.

[3] Документы, подписанные по итогам российско-саудовских переговоров //http://kremlin.ru/supplement/5236.

[4] Итоги первого госвизита короля Саудовской Аравии в Россию //http://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/4627597.

[5] Лавров рассказал, как король Саудовской Аравии оценил работу России в Сирии //https://ria.ru/syria/20171005/1506274340.html.

[6] Саудовская Аравия надеется на объединение оппозиции Сирии к женевскому раунду. //http://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/4627410.

[7] Эр-Рияд намерен развивать отношения с Москвой во всех областях //http://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/4627386.

[8] Король Саудовской Аравии призвал к объединению ради борьбы с терроризмом //https://ria.ru/world/20171005/1506259813.html.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Россия и Саудовская Аравия договорились о поставках вооружения //https://ria.ru/defense_safety/20171016/1506894845.html.

[11] Пентагон объяснил беспокойство по поводу покупки С-400 Эр-Риядом //https://ria.ru/world/20171006/1506337572.html.

[12] Москва и Эр-Рияд подписали пакет соглашений о сотрудничестве //http://www.tvc.ru/news/show/id/125153.

[13] Как прошла встреча лидеров России и Саудовской Аравии в Кремле //http://tass.ru/politika/4621629.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Союз России и Саудовской Аравии: пустыня требует воды //https://regnum.ru/news/2334967.html.

[16] Ibid.

[17] РФПИ: Сделка ОПЕК+ принесла РФ и Саудовской Аравии $40 млрд //https://www.1prime.ru/energy/20171006/827989611.html.

[18] Медведев: РФ выполнит достигнутые с Саудовской Аравией договоренности «как можно быстрее» //http://tass.ru/politika/4624001

[19] МИД Саудовской Аравии: отношения с Москвой достигли «исторического момента» //https://ria.ru/world/20171005/1506275628.html.