MOSCOW – Russia is strengthening ties with the United State’s traditional Arab allies, scrambling the Middle East and cementing Moscow’s role as a regional power broker.
Since Russia’s 2015 intervention in the Syrian civil war in support of President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow has built strong economic ties with Saudi Arabia, increased business deals with Qatar and sold billions of dollars of arms to the United Arab Emirates.
The burgeoning Russian-Arab political relations were highlighted in Nov., when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin clasped hands and laughed with each other at the G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires.
Coming when Saudi Arabia faced global outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, the handshake signaled Moscow’s willingness to be a friend to Arab countries without criticizing their human-rights records.
For Arab allies of the US, Russia’s rising regional role provides an important hedge against their relationship with President Trump.
Underpinning the growing relationship between Russia and Saudi Arabia is a shared interest in regulating the world oil price.
Both countries faced a crisis when the price collapsed in 2014, and in 2016 the two reached an agreement to cut production, making Russia a key partner of the Saudi-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.