Al Monitor | Yekaterina Chulkovskaya: Russian media paid little attention to US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but Russian experts, when asked, had plenty to say on the matter.
Trump delivered a speech May 21 to the leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries in which he outlined his vision for US policy in the region and America’s relations with Muslim nations. As international media and experts discussed the meaning of the speech for US policy in the region, even Russia’s state-run TV Channel 1 kept silent about the speech during its weekly news program that evening. Instead, it focused on the domestic problems Trump faces, including the prospects for impeachment.
On his weekly TV news show, Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of the biggest state-run news agency, Rossiya Segodnya, mentioned Trump’s visit to Riyadh, but he still ignored the speech. Instead, he paid close attention to the US-Saudi arms deal, which he said indicated a qualitatively different US policy in the region.
“With US support, the Saudis want to establish a new military alliance in the region, which some media call the ‘Arab NATO.’ Its members will be more sensitive toward Trump’s anti-Iran statements than the more cautious European NATO members. It is dangerous,” Kiselyov said.
Russian officials made no public comments, and those Al-Monitor reached either declined comment or simply did not respond. Andrei Baklanov, a Russian Middle East expert and former Russian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, suggested that the lack of response indicates the officials are still investigating how its Middle East partners understood the speech and what was actually accomplished during Trump’s visit. He said Trump’s speech and visit were outstanding.
“As a former ambassador, I always pay attention to the organization of any international visit and I could say that this visit was very well organized. Trump used very nice, warm words while addressing Saudi King Salman [bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud]. He called Saudi Arabia ‘the heart of the Muslim world,’ which was highly appreciated by the Saudis,” Baklanov told Al-Monitor.