Russia Continues Making Inroads into the Middle East: Saudi Arabia


Recent events have tilted the Middle East in favor of growing Russian hegemony. As Putin continues to employ his power-grab strategies, he is successfully making inroads for Russian influence in the Middle East and Arab world. This emerging trend has been given space for growth as a result of a different world power shifting its influence away from the region.

The U.S is withdrawing its physical presence from Syria and other areas in the Middle East, and as a consequence a power vacuum has emerged. Instead of many Middle Eastern countries or groups of people having greater influence over their own political futures as previous critics of U.S. foriegn policy might hope for, U.S. withdrawal is producing the opposite. Most of these smaller countries lack the capability to stand up to the influence of more powerful world and regional players who have an interest in the region.

Between Iran, Russia, and Turkey, influence in the Arab world previously exerted by the U.S. is being more forcefully replaced by one of these other powerful international players. In the case of Russia, one of their strategies to grow influence involves agreements over the exportation of oil. Russia is one of the world’s top oil exporters, and their economy relies heavily on the exportation of this resource. In a similar economic position is one of their burgeoning partners in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia.

Putin has entered into a new round of talks with Saudi leaders over the exportation of oil and other financial agreements. During this most recent series of visits the two partners walked away with a series of agreements over oil and investments, according to the FDD, leading researchers on the Middle East.

These investments have included pledging over $10 billion into a Russian investment fund, as reported by the FDD. Many of these promised investments have not yet come to fruition. Despite this, Putin has been praising Saudi Arabia as its leading partner in the Middle East, as part of his latest “victory lap” touting Russian influence following U.S. withdrawals.

One of Putin’s key objectives is to continue to degrade U.S. influence in the region. Despite the U.S.’s continued withdrawal of its military presence in key locations, it still holds significant sway over much of Arab world. If Riyadh were to be won over as an ally to Russia, it would be a key prize and shift of influence in the Middle towards clear Russian hegemony, as indicated by leading experts on foreign policy.

Saudi Arabia has not given up its alliance with the U.S., even though Putin has been making efforts to pull Saudi Arabia away and into the Russian fold with his cooperation in Saudi oil markets, as reported by policy researchers at FDD. If the U.S. wants to keep Saudi Arabia a close ally, then it needs to be willing to counter growing Iranian influence. Iranian aggression has become one of Saudi Arabia’s main concerns, and with the U.S. pulling back its military presence from Iranian incursions, a vulnerable opening is being left in the alliance.

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