Saudi-Russian relations’ changes; Tactical or strategic?

Alwaght- As the gaps between the US and Saudi Arabia grew deeper, Riyadh has made many efforts to make alliances with other global superpowers including China and Russia to use them as alternatives in case of possible reduction of level of diplomatic ties with Washington and at the same time to take advantage of them for pursuing its regional policies. But the analysts have cast a lot of doubts on practicality of relations the Saudi kingdom has held with Russia. It appears that despite all of the speculations on possible boost of relations between the two countries, many of their moves to improve bilateral relations are more tactical than they are strategic.e

If we want to look at West Asia region with a broader view, we can see that despite all of the ups and downs and challenges in US-Saudi Arabia relations and despite the Saudi Arabian domestic developments that led to taking unprecedented and destructive approach to the region by the new class of rulers, the kingdom remains in the Western and the American camp. The same speculations on improvement of Saudi ties with Russia were already made on the Tel Aviv’s boost of ties with Moscow.

For example, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit of Moscow or other travels by both the Israeli and Russian officials to each other’s countries raised such speculations. Actually, such speculations were fueled by the Israeli officials. But despite the fact that the Israeli leaders tried to purport that Tel Aviv was in its way to building strategic relations with Moscow, this never happened.

Earlier, Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post in an article disclosed that although Tel Aviv’s worries and its cooperation came with the aim of avoiding unwanted air accidents in the Syrian airspace, at least in two cases the Russian forces operating in Syria opened fire at the Israeli regime’s fighter jets over Syria. The Israeli daily added that Tel Aviv was very concerned about the Russian moves in Syria. The Israeli daily’s disclosure quashed all of earlier speculations about boost of Israeli-Russian ties. Saudi Arabia and Russia make promotions about their relations, make bargains, and make limited tactical moves for cooperation in such cases as joint work to regulate the oil market. Or perhaps they want to show off closeness and practicality of Riyadh and Moscow ties. Despite all these, we should know that at the end of the road they belong to different camps, and it is unlikely that the diplomatic shows of the two countries transform the current ties into strategic relations.

On the other side, Russia’s behavior in Syria and the region and in general Moscow’s foreign policy in past few years has followed special patterns. A couple of days ago, the New York Times’ reporter in Moscow described “deep distrust” as the key factor directing the Russian leaders’– and particularly President Vladimir Putin’s–behavioral patterns in dealing with the West in Syria and West Asia region. One of the factors that creates bonds between Iran and Russia in West Asian issues, and especially the Syrian crisis, is this distrust and skepticism to the West and the US due to their historical records. Therefore, it is very unlikely that show-offs and news reports about Saudi-Russian relations are so serious, and so this tactical cooperation is far from transforming into strategic relations. Because the tendencies, camps, and considerations of the two countries are completely different from each other. With this in mind, it is highly unlikely that Saudi Arabia, an ally of the West, finds a strategic place in Russia’s foreign policy.

By Alwaght