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The Kremlin and The Kingdom: The Russian-Saudi Rapprochement

The Kremlin And The Kingdom: The Russian-Saudi Rapprochement
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's trip to Saudi Arabia accelerated the all-around rapprochement between Moscow and Riyadh, and it also helped sort out some of the details for King Salman's upcoming trip to Moscow next month.

Lavrov's visit had as its first and most public objective the strengthening of bilateral coordination in resolving the War on Syria, and Moscow's top diplomat welcomed Riyadh's efforts to unite the opposition under one group.

This is something that Russia had been working towards for some time, and the fact that it and Saudi Arabia see eye-to-eye on this regard is a promising sign of what might come in future peace talks. Moreover, Lavrov is helping to plan King Salman's historic upcoming trip to the Russian capital, which will be a major sign of just how much relations have developed between the two erstwhile rivals over the past year.

There were signs of a thaw between these competing Great Powers when they both decided to work together on the OPEC output deal last year and then renew it again once it originally expired. Afterwards, now-Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman traveled to Saint Petersburg to attend its International Economic Forum, where he met with President Putin and lauded the evolving relations between both sides. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said at the time that his country and Saudi Arabia were exploring cooperation on over 30 joint projects, and that Russia might partake in the forthcoming partial privatization of Saudi oil giant Aramco once it puts up shares sometime next year.

The productive Russian-Saudi Summit in Saint Petersburg soon thereafter saw Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov declare that a $3.5 billion preliminary agreement had been reached in selling unspecific arms and equipment to Saudi Arabia, followed by the news late last month that both parties will hold their first-ever joint military-technical panel by the end of the year. The military dimensions of the Russian-Saudi rapprochement might be surprising to some observers, but they perfectly correlate with Moscow's efforts to clinch new and non-traditional partnerships as it seeks to become the ultimate balancing force in 21st-century Eurasia, and as can be seen, it isn't shying away from military diplomacy to do so.

All in all, it's undeniable that Russia and Saudi Arabia have made tremendous progress on rebooting their previously fraught relations, and this new partnership has the very real potential for reshaping the ever-changing geopolitics of the Mideast region.

We are joined by Arif Kamal, former Pakistani diplomat who dedicated almost eleven years in his thirty four years of diplomatic profession to the Middle Eastern arena and was also Ambassador to Qatar in from 1999-2003. Also on the line with us is Patrick Armstrong, former analyst in the Canadian government.

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