This month, Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to buy up to $15 billion worth of Russian arms if Russia would reduce its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In an email interview, Andrej Kreutz, an expert on Russia-Middle East relations and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary, explained the recent trajectory of Russian-Saudi relations.
WPR: What has been the trajectory of Russian-Saudi relations in the past few years?
Andrej Kreutz: Between 2003 and 2010, there was some noticeable rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which have historically had somewhat conflicting, albeit nuanced, relations. Major signs of this gradual warming in relations included the September 2003 visit of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Moscow and the February 2007 visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia, and the reasons behind it probably included both sides’ concerns about Islamic radicalism and the Saudis’ wish to use Russia as a backdoor to Iran. Moscow, meanwhile, wanted Riyadh’s support for Russia’s policy in Chechnya and the Caucasus, and to improve its image in the Gulf and in the Islamic world as a whole.