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Military Cooperation And Successive Visits. Is Riyadh Heading Towards Moscow, Away From Washington?

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On a visit to Russia, the Saudi Deputy Defense Minister and his Russian counterpart signed an agreement to enhance military and defense cooperation between the two countries, in a rapprochement that media reports said is a Russian penetration of the US-Saudi alliance. Has Riyadh’s compass changed from Washington to Moscow?

The visit of Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Salman to Moscow at the dawn of August 24, and his signing with his Russian counterpart the agreement to enhance military and defense cooperation between their two countries, brings back to the international scene the rapprochement that is being built between two countries that were for a time in a state of great political divergence.

It also prompts the question about what has changed in the Kingdom’s relationship with its biggest enemy in the region, Tehran, and what has changed in the relationship of the Russians with their American opponents.

On the other hand, the agreement also comes in light of the tensions in Washington’s relations with Riyadh, with the Biden administration taking over the country’s rule, and its intention to review Saudi arms deals, such as its role in the war on Yemen. As a result, the news about whether Moscow succeeded in infiltrating the relationship between the two traditional allies is promoting a more stable alternative from Washington, where for its allies there is no fear of a change in Putin’s rule in the short term.

Visit and military agreement

According to what was announced by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, his country “signed today an agreement aimed at developing areas of joint military cooperation between the two friendly countries.” He added that he and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed their “joint efforts to maintain stability and security in the region,” and reviewed “the common challenges facing our countries.”

While the Saudi official’s visit to Moscow comes in the midst of a visit to the International Military-Technical Forum of the Russian Ministry of Defense “Army 2021”, and news agencies reported that this visit aims to strengthen Saudi-Russian relations, and will bring together in multiple meetings Prince Khalid bin Salman with a number of Russian officials. .

It is noteworthy that this year has witnessed frequent visits between Russian and Saudi officials, the most important of which was last March, when the plane of Moscow Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov landed to meet with a number of Saudi ministers and officials. A visit at the time carried more than what could have been expected of trade agreements or diplomatic discussions about the roles of the two countries in the region. It was also known for the first time that Lavrov condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Do Washington’s positions bring Riyadh closer to Moscow?

Since the qualifying rounds for the presidential battle within the American Democratic Party, President Biden has severely and more than once criticized the “unlimited support that Trump provides to the Saudi crown prince,” considering that his Republican rival at the time “finds justifications for the Saudi crown prince away from the facts, and this harms the United States and its international reputation.” “. In fact, a statement from his presidential campaign at the time stated that “Biden believes in the necessity of the United States to stop its support for the war in Yemen and to stop presenting a blank check to Saudi Arabia regarding this war.”

This is reflected in the actions of the US President’s administration when it withdrew its participation from the coalition in Yemen. It also announced changes to the US arms export policy to Saudi Arabia in order to further affirm commitment to human rights. Finally, an arms deal that included “F-35” fighters and precision munitions destined for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi was frozen.

In addition to all this, the Biden administration did not hide its intention to return to the negotiating table on a new nuclear agreement with Iran, showing positive signs toward Tehran. On the other hand, Riyadh considers Tehran its main opponent in the region, and an American expert says: “If I were the Saudis, I would take a path to Moscow and another to Beijing in search of a partner more trustworthy than the United States.”

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