Recent Saudi Delegation to Moscow Betrays a Hint of Desperation
The Kingdom is in a far weaker position on the world stage than it was only a year ago
This article originally appeared at New Eastern Outlook
However, vacillating in the past between toothless threats and absurd promises of lavish economic deals, the Saudis have accomplished only one thing in their recent string of diplomatic maneuvering, that is to telegraph immense weakness and desperation ahead of their next visit.
Indeed, if on Earth there is one nation that needs Russia the most, it might be Saudi Arabia. Conversely, however, if ever there was a nation Russia would be wise enough never to do business with, it would also be Saudi Arabia. A client-state of the British and then American empire, it has of late allowed itself to be used as an intermediary in an increasingly dangerous proxy war involving Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and to a certain extent, Lebanon, Egypt, and even Libya.
While undoubtedly US State Department staff explained at length how Washington would never allow anything to happen to their favorite regional autocracy, the war Riyadh started on Washington’s behalf in Yemen is now slowly creeping over the borders into Saudi territory, and the weapons and fighters emerging on that battlefield may yet link up with long-simmering tensions in eastern Saudi Arabia.
To say that Saudi Arabia is a nation in need of friends is an understatement, and Riyadh might finally have realized that Washington sees its “favorite” autocracy as it does all other client-states, expendable. However, so sociopolitically, economically and geopolitically disfigured from its role as chief regional facilitator for Washington and London’s agenda, it may have left itself with no alternatives.
Saudi Arabia has done much to destroy its neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), but it also has played a role in applying pressure on states well beyond, but states that hold significant influence throughout the region. This includes Russia. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s role in destabilizing and destroying the MENA region is part of a larger geopolitical gambit aimed at Moscow, among others.
In the past, the Saudis have both lavished with promises of wealth and threatened Moscow with outright terrorism, in order to pressure Russia to abandon its allies in Damascus, Baghdad, and Tehran.
It was reported by the London Telegraph in its article, “Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria,” that:
Saudi Arabia has secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime in Syria.
It also stated, in addition to the offer, there was also an implicit threat:
As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said.
Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”
Why Putin Can Refuse
Russia’s resurgence as a global power is underpinned not on Saudi oil or the lack of terrorism in the Caucasus region, but instead underpinned by its growing relationship with other members of the BRICS association as well as other nations throughout the developing world who are quickly gaining ground versus traditional global power brokers.
Brazil, India, China, and South Africa have all found themselves on the receiving end of similar pressure from Washington and London, though arguably to a lesser extent. Their combined economies and populations provide a market Russia has been incrementally transitioning to serve, outside of the confines and extortion imposed upon it dealing with the West. Likewise, other nations across the developing world are increasingly aware of this shifting balance of power and are seeking ways out of compromises they previously made to placate foreign interests that would otherwise eviscerate their nations much as has been done to Libya, Syria and Iraq.
Additionally, despite the pressure of sanctions and Saudi Arabia’s oil price-fixing, Russia has attempted to continue reaching out to European nations in the hopes of working around derailed pipeline deals and other disruptions intentionally created and aimed at Moscow. Russia has done this with varying degrees of success, all while cultivating a policy of national self-reliance.
In reality, Russian President Vladimir Putin can say “no” to Saudi Arabia’s wheeling and dealing specifically because it is not Russia that needs Saudi Arabia, it is Saudi Arabia that in fact needs Russia. Riyadh’s role as Washington’s proxy in the Middle East and even as a means of leverage on the greater global stage has led it to the edge of a cliff. This is a cliff Washington itself will inevitably fall over, but it will not do so until its proxies have pushed over first.
Considering these realities, it may be time for Riyadh’s delegation to Moscow to put aside the empty threats and equally empty promises, and talk about a real path forward. Riyadh’s, not Moscow’s future may depend on it.
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