Russia/Saudi Arabia politics: Quick View - King Salman visits Putin in Moscow

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Russia, Saudi Arabia


On October 5th Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, hosted the Saudi king, Salman bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud, in Moscow, the Russian capital.


The unprecedented visit resulted in the signature of several investment deals, including the establishment of a US$1bn energy investment fund between Saudi Aramco-the Saudi Arabian state oil company-Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF); a US$1bn high-tech investment fund between the PIF and the RDIF; and a memorandum of understanding concerning Saudi Arabia's potential purchase of a few S-400 air-defence system battalions. Although the US remains a major supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom will work with Russia and other European allies to diversify its weapons supply base.

Collaboration between the two states was vital in establishing an oil production cut that helped to stabilise prices, and talks in Moscow provided further indication that the production cut agreement, due to expire at end-March 2018, is likely to be extended at least until June, and possibly to the end of 2018.

The meeting also explored the potential for future co-operation in foreign affairs. Saudi Arabia aspires to check the flourishing Russo-Iranian partnership and hopes that Russia might moderate Iranian influence in Syria, or promote the appointment of pro-Saudi opposition figures to a Syrian government of national unity in due course. Russia may also be in a position to support any effort by Saudi Arabia to wind down its bloody conflict in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia's investments in Russian energy and high-tech are perhaps best regarded as opening gambits for a negotiation on these weightier matters, offered in the knowledge that Russia is eager to build economic relationships with non-Western states and attract investment for its modernisation projects. The king's visit also helps to reset its perception of Russia as a known ally of Iran-Saudi Arabia's top rival in the region. For Mr Putin, the visit of a staunch US ally is a useful statement of Russia's importance as a global power, one that will be noted in the US, as well as the capitals of the Middle East.

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