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  • Russo-Saudi Arms Deal: The Harbinger of the Middle East Power Shift?

    The Obama Administration is ignoring news reports that Russia is planning to sign a contract with Saudi Arabia, in which the Kingdom will receive over US $2 billion in Russian arms and military technology. Most likely, the contract will be signed by the end of this year.

    Traditionally, the arms market of the Persian Gulf has been the hunting reserve of the American and European defense industries, which both provide up to 90 percent of the weapon needs of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

    The current deal was facilitated by the Treaty on cooperation in military technology initiated during the visit of the Russian then-President Vladimir Putin to the Saudi capital Riyadh, on February 11, 2007, and signed in 2008. That trip was a milestone–the first time in history that the head of Russia or the Soviet Union had visited the Kingdom.

    That visit (perhaps to add gravitas) was preceded by a widely publicized speech by Putin at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy. In that speech, Putin virtually declared a new Cold War with the United States, and thus it was clear to his host King Abdullah, in which direction the his Russians guests are moving.

    According to reports, Saudi Arabia is poised to buy 150 helicopters (Mi-35 attack and Mi-17 transport helicopters); more than 150 T-90S tanks; 250 infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-3); as well as “several dozen” anti-aircraft missile systems. There are also ongoing talks over the purchase of Saudis modern anti-aircraft missile systems S-400 Triumph and the Mi-28 attack helicopters.

    Saudi Arabia is a leading US arms sales customer. According to estimates for 2009, the military budget of Saudi Arabia exceeds $33 billion dollars, and will increase to $44 billion in 2010.

    At this point, Russian arms exports to the Gulf are growing but do not yet undermine the US and Europeans’ positions in this market. However, the new Russo-Saudi deal has a great geopolitical significance.

    Some analysts in the Gulf believe that this deal is a down payment to Russia in order to advance Moscow’s support for the future sanctions against Iran. This may explain why Washington is sitting quietly and not responding. But the White House should take seriously the consequences of possible increases of Russian military sales to the House of Saud in the future. This deal allows Saudi Arabia to diversify its supply of weapons and strategic orientation.

    As Saudi Arabia is looking for new pillars of international security, the Kingdom may hope to persuade Washington to apply more robust pressure on Iran to stop the nuclear program; provide better security guarantees to Riyadh; and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict on its terms. Moreover, closer cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia could lead to closer coordination between Russia and OPEC, including on oil production and pricing. Such increasing cartelization between the two largest oil producers on the planet may not be in the interest of oil-consuming countries.

    Russia has once again confirmed that its military industry products are in demand abroad. A week ago, its military industries were able to conclude a number of deals during the Moscow Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS-2009), an extravagant military equipment show, including an agreement to supply 20 helicopters Mi-171 (upgraded version of the Mi-8) of the company from the UAE Airfreight Aviation LTD.

    The lucrative arms market in the Middle East certainly attracts the attention of Russia’s military industrial complex, but it is not the main prize of the game. What Russia is really after is the bridgehead and influence in the main oil-producing region of the world and the increase of geopolitical weight at the expense of the United States. The Obama Administration better wake up and pay attention.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Russo-Saudi Arms Deal: The Harbinger of the Middle East Power Shift?

    1. Bill San Antonio TX says:

      There is historical precedent for Russia's arm sales to the entire Middle East Region, except of course, to Israel.

      The Soviet Union (Russia) was the major contributor and instigator of weapons to the Middle East during the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s.

      The Israelis can attest to this since they had to fight for their very survival against overwhelming arms and manpower in 3 wars during this timeframe.

      Russia is playing a deadly game in their attempt to gain greater influence, once again, in the region.

      By supporting the Iranians nuclear ambitions, Russia must think they have everything under control with that regime. They fail to realize that the fundamentalist Islamic zealots have nothing in common with the Russian infidels. Russia actions are making the Middle East more dangerous. Afterall, the radical Islamists goal is to have a cataclysmic event.

      Saudi Arabia needs to make a fundamental decision. The West saved them against one of their own "brothers", Iraq. Now, the Saudis (co-founders of radical Wahabbism) want to deal with the Russians. The Saudis only need look to Iran to realize this foolishness.

      President Obama's outstretched hand is being slapped.

    2. Docer says:

      Great comment Bill.

    3. jlw indiana says:

      Yet, another reason to develop our own oil reserves.

    4. G-Man, VA says:

      …is it time to increase domestic oil production yet? Wake up elected officials! Don't you see that we can kill at least three (3) birds with one (1) stone here? Namely, 1) reduce our reliance on foreign oil; 2) reduce the strategic effect of the Russo-Saudi Arms Deal by reducing the return on their oil-dollar by flooding the market with American crude (How? Reducing the amount of Russian and Saudi oil revenue financially reduces their arms purchasing power, and thus reduces arms that are likely planned to be used against the United States – come on, you certainly don't trust either the Russians or the Saudis); and 3) put Americans back to work in vast American oil fields! Get it?

      G-Man waxes accurate…

    5. Al, The Villages, Fl says:

      Another test of Obama's mettle. Most likely, another slip in the political power of the U.S. in the world.

    6. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      So what is new? The Russians have been doing this from the time of the Soviet Union. The Brithish and the French and the Chinese and we Americans have too. Nothing is new, not even the lies we have been told about our not having enough of our own resources in our own Nation to not buy from anywhere else.

      But think about this, if we did not buy their oil, how could they buy owu planes, arms and other weapons? How could they afford our other goods that we as Americans produce? Who do you think that we sell most of our 'Gross National Product" to, anyway, starving nations?


    7. Bill San Antonio TX says:

      By now, transparency = a concrete and steel barrier.

      On the ole Campaign trail, I could have sworn I heard our leader say we would pursue alternative energies AND drill for oil and nuclear, etc.

      Oh, well. . .

    8. The Captain, New Orl says:

      This is a Russian threat to U.S. But it won't happen because the Saudis will want the Russians to neuter the Iranians. The Russians won't neuter the Iranians because having them as a thorn in the U.S. side is more important than making in-roads into Saudi Arabia. Also, most of the Saudi war hardware is U.S. or European. It is too difficult to have another kind of hardware to repair and carry parts far.

    9. Barbara, Texas says:

      The real reason we don't replace foreign oil imports with our own domestic oil which, if you went for enough toward the infernal center of the world right from where you sit, is available in this slowly burning out star but because of the foreign development our oil companies have overseas along with the matrix of businesses facilitating their investment. If we have enough pirating/highjacking, enough people get killed and law suits against those companies, maybe dissolving the interests abroad won't look so expensive. Besides with all the natural gas being found, maybe someone smart will come up with a vehicle that people will like and one of the auto producers will produce a car they will buy. Let the Seven Sisters keep their oil or sell it all to China.

      We have some very serious, complex and intricate problems; maybe somebody can figure out how to solve them-peacefully with humanity in mind instead of the Almight Dollar but they aren't in DC and it may be too late to get anyone there who has an ounce of integrity as well as ingenuity.

    10. Marsh says:

      I did not see Putin bowing!

    11. Pingback: Politics and the Proposed Russian-Saudi Arms Deal | Defense Spending

    12. Greg, Vail, AZ says:

      The US receives somewhere around 5% of it's oil imports from the middle east. The remainder is from Venezuela, Mexico, and Canada. The involvement of the US in the middle east is partially due to it's commitment to protect Israel. It is i the WORLD"S best interest to keep the middle east stable. Too bad Europe is not living up to it's end, as that stability is way more important to them than it is to us.

    13. Sari, Saudi Arabia says:

      i think having the new weapons in here will boost the country's ability greatly :D

      lately we have been getting lots of crap-gear from europe : …. RUSSIA FTW :D (plus we like AKs)

    14. Pingback: “Rescue” Jerusalem « Commentary Magazine

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