Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Saudi Arabia on October 14 amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf and is expected to ink oil agreements, according to statements on the Kremlin’s website.
His visit comes as Moscow has failed to meet its 3-percent-growth goal for gross domestic product amid stinging Western sanctions.
Oil will be “the main topic of discussion” between Putin and Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov told AFP.
Russia has worked closely with the 24-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, to raise oil prices by restricting supply after a global price downturn in 2014 adversely affected Russia’s economy.
Russia isn’t an OPEC member, but the group’s current agreement will expire next spring.
Ahead of his visit, Putin gave an interview jointly to Al-Arabiya, Sky News Arabia, and RT Arabic during which he touted his good relations with the Saudi king and prince.
King Salman made his first visit to Russia in 2017 and a year later Putin publicly shook the hand of the prince when he was facing criticism after the assassination of Turkish journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a summit of the Group of 20 industrialized countries.
Political analyst Lukyanov said Putin might use his influence to defuse rising tension between Tehran and Riyadh after crucial Saudi oil facilities were struck by projectiles last month in an attack for which Iran was blamed.
The Kremlin leader is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates on October 15.
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Russia is aiming to strengthen strategic relations with Saudi Arabia at a time of a cooling historical alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Saudi Arabia is looking for a more dependable alliance with a superpower like Russia which has proven its loyalty to its friends by standing shoulder to shoulder with Syria.
With a changing global geopolitical landscape, Saudi Arabia may feel the need to ally itself with the new rising order that will shape the world in the next two decades, namely Russia’s strategic alliance with China.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London