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Strong Saudi-Russian Military Cooperation in Full Swing in 2022

Saudi and Russian military are shaking hands in 2022. During his stay in Moscow, Russian Attorney General Igor Krasnov met with Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib on Thursday. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the meeting addressed the most important combined legislative and judiciary issues and discussed methods to improve legal cooperation between the two bodies.

Al-Mujib and his delegation were given an overview by Krasnov of the long history of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office and some of its most significant turning moments in that history.

Prosecuting criminals, bringing them to justice, and addressing everything that could harm the security and peace in Saudi Arabia is the responsibility of the Saudi Public Prosecution. Al-Mujib emphasized that the Kingdom’s leadership provides the Public Prosecution with unlimited and continuous support.

To better combat terrorism, corruption, and transnational organized crime, the Saudi Public Prosecution, and its Russian military equivalent inked a memorandum of collaboration in the early months of 2019.

At a fair, arms outside of Moscow, Saudi Arabia, and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation.

Memorandum of Understanding

Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin of Russia inked an agreement “aimed at developing cooperative military cooperation between the two nations,” he said on Twitter on August 24.

When Salman was in Moscow for the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2021, he met with Russian Military Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

According to the deputy defense minister, the discussion focused on ways to “enhance military and defense cooperation between our two nations.”

The military agreement between Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest arms purchaser, and Russia, the second-largest arms exporter behind the United States, was not immediately available.

Saudi Arabia’s primary source of weapons has long been the United States. Approximately 24% of all U.S. weaponry exports went to Saudi Arabia in 2016–20, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

When Shoigu and Salman met, Shoigu stated, “We aspire for a progressive development in the military and military-technical domains on the broad spectrum of topics that pose mutual interest.”

When the Russian military engaged in Syria’s civil war to support President Bashar al-Assad, Putin remarked that Russia possessed several new weaponry systems that had “proved themselves successfully in Syria.”

Military Cooperation Agreement

At the seventh annual International Military-Technical Forum, an arms show in Moscow, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman signed a “military cooperation agreement” with one of his Russian military colleagues. However, it is still unclear exactly what has been agreed upon.

Earlier that day, on August 24, he announced the deal through Twitter, writing that it was “aimed at developing combined military cooperation between the two countries.” Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister met “to explore methods to deepen military and defense cooperation” between the two countries and discussed a “joint endeavor to preserve stability in the area,” as well as “shared problems.”

This isn’t much better on the Russian military side of things, either! When Prince Khalid met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, the Russian Defense Ministry’s website reported only on what the prince said: “According to the military leader, the cooperation that exists between his country and Russia ‘will contribute to a common response to all modern challenges, which we will carry out together. Even greater cooperation and effort will be required from us in the face of these challenges,” he said.

RFE/RL quoted Defense Minister Shoygu as saying, “We strive for a progressive growth of military and military-technical cooperation on the broad spectrum of topics which confront mutual interest.” Also, Russian military systems have “proved themselves successfully in Syria,” which reflects Russia’s hopes that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will purchase Russian military armaments.

What Does the Military Cooperation Deal Do?

A military cooperation deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia, notwithstanding their descriptions’ ambiguity, is noteworthy. The United States and other Western countries have long provided Saudi Arabia with security support. After the fall of the US-backed Afghan government and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the signing of this Saudi-Russian agreement—whatever it contains—is a signal that Riyadh does not feel it can fully rely on Washington and is therefore willing to hedge its bets by turning to Moscow.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had good ties with the Trump administration, while Joe Biden’s administration has been significantly more critical of human rights issues and Saudi Arabia’s ongoing conflict in Yemen. Even though the Biden administration may not want Saudi Arabia to change its behavior, this arrangement with Moscow may be a clear indication that there are countries that Saudi Arabia can cooperate with that aren’t very concerned about changing its behavior.

It’s possible that Saudi Arabia and Russia’s agreement on military cooperation is an attempt by Riyadh to sway Washington’s actions. Because of their fears that U.S. commitment to them may be eroding, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries are aware of the tense Russian-American relations. The Saudis may believe that cooperating with America’s arch-rival Russia could persuade the United States to increase its commitment to the Kingdom and minimize its criticism.

To make matters worse, the recent announcement of joint naval exercises between China, Iran, and Russia in the Gulf should serve as further proof that Russia is no match for the United States as a security guarantee. Russian-Iranian military cooperation in Syria and Russian military arms supplies to Tehran are just two examples of Russia’s continuous military cooperation with Iran that the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs find troubling.

A Positive Attention from the U.S.

Riyadh’s goal in establishing this security deal with Moscow may be to gain more positive attention from the United States. The American armaments industry does not want to lose any market share to Russian military competitors in Saudi Arabia. While the U.S. and its allies in Israel and the Arab Gulf are concerned about Iranian and jihadist threats, some in Washington believe that despite MBS’s faults, the general Saudi-American alliance is cooperative and should remain so. It’s possible that if Saudi Arabia does purchase Russian S-400 air defense missiles, the Saudi-American relationship might worsen in the same way as the Turkish-American relationship did when Ankara purchased Russian S-400s.

So, Riyadh’s goal may be to make Washington jealous of its newfound friendship with Moscow while not upsetting the U.S. too much. Russian connections with Riyadh, like Russian links with Ankara, would be welcome news to Moscow. Riyadh is expected to keep its increasing relations with Moscow within bounds due to Moscow’s continuous relationship with Tehran, which Russia will not give up in the interest of better relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.



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