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Saudi Arabia turns toward Russia

Jun 20, 2015

The Saudis have decided to turn east and north, rather than look to the West. This marks a major turn since just last year. Saudi Arabia and Russia just signed six new important agreements, “including nuclear and military spheres.” It looks like Russia will soon become the Saudi government’s supplier of military hardware.


In Riyadh, there’s a new king in town; and he is a very different man than his brother was before him. After shaking up the government and replacing the heads of Saudi Arabia’s two biggest corporate behemoths (SABIC & Saudi Aramco), his new majesty seems to have the right people in place to carry out what seems to be an entirely new set of policies.

Case in point was this past Thursday’s meeting in St. Petersburg where President Putin received the Deputy Crown Prince and Saudi Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman (a son of the current King Salman), along with Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and the all-powerful Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi. The two sides signed a total of six new cooperation agreements that included the nuclear and military spheres….

Naimi went on to praise the enhanced bilateral cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow, stating that, This, in turn, will lead to creating a petroleum alliance between the two countries for the benefit of the international oil market as well as producing countries and stabilizing and improving the market….”

This is just the beginning of a new chapter in Saudi-Russian relations. During his meeting with President Putin, Prince Muhammad publicly announced that his father had officially invited the Russian president to the Kingdom, stating, “I have the honor to pass on an invitation to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we regard Russia as one of the important states in the contemporary world, and our relations have roots in the past.

In the diplomatic world, when heads of state visit each other’s country, it is a clear signal of major changes in political and financial relations. The Saudi displeasure with its US partner (soon to be ex-partner) is being headlined here. The rift goes deeper than just differences over Syria and Iran, because they differ with Russia on those issues even more than with the US government.

It would seem that the Saudis blame the USA for the drop in oil prices and were not part of that decision. The USA is rapidly becoming energy independent with the development of shale oil in North Dakota. The USA now buys only half as much oil from Saudi Arabia that they used to. So the Saudis no longer have to please their best customer.

Alliances are shifting, and the USA is losing influence around the world, along with a lot of good will.

So much for sanctions against Russia.

And by the way, this new alliance greatly reduces the importance and relevance of OPEC. Watch for a new OPEC-style alliance where Russia and Saudi Arabia are co-kingpins.

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Category: Middle East
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones