Putin visited Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to emphasize the strength of relations between Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in general and Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular. If this relationship rises even in light of the Ukraine war, the visit underscores its firmness and finality in the context of the war in Gaza.
Regardless of the content of the Russian leader's talks in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, all the facades and scenes of his reception by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi reflect in the warmth the level of personal chemistry in the relationship between the three leaders, something that is rarely observed during visits by some Western leaders.
The visit is a remarkable event in terms of the Russian president's travel beyond the geographical space in which he has been accustomed to travel since the outbreak of the Ukraine war. He recently visited China and a number of neighboring countries that were part of the former Soviet Union. If he chooses to "go out into the world" through the gates of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it is because he considers that he is roaming in a "safe zone" and trusting the extent to which the relations of these countries have reached interdependence of goals, intertwining interests and convergence in strategic visions.
Despite the United States' efforts, especially after the war in Gaza, to assert the restoration of its level of influence in the Middle East, despite Washington's efforts to correct its relations with the region and with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in particular, and despite the influx of American officials to repair the cracks in the wall of trust with the countries of the region, Putin's visit sends a clear regional message that relations with the East are a strategic and final choice and do not contradict the historical relationship with the West (even if the Financial Newspaper The Times reported that Riyadh postponed a visit by the crown prince to London because of Putin's visit).
Russia's ambassador to Riyadh, Sergei Kozlov, pledged in February to reach $5 billion a year. This trade reached a volume of 1.75 billion in 2022. On the other hand, this trade increased by 68 percent between Russia and the UAE and achieved a volume of $ 8.5 billion in 2022.
Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are interested in navigating together and on one wave within the energy market. The three countries are members of the OPEC Plus group and have an interest in maintaining price levels that suit member countries without disrupting international markets and economies. If the needs of the war in Ukraine have put economic pressure on Russia and the need for higher savings from the energy market, Saudi Arabia and the UAE's development plans have also imposed the need to maintain a certain level of prices by adjusting supply levels in oil markets.
However, Putin does not need to travel to the region to discuss energy issues, as the working mechanisms within OPEC Plus have successfully synthesized and coordinated positions and maintained unity among member states. According to this reality, the Russian president aspires to expand relations beyond the energy sector with the Middle East and the Gulf countries in particular. He would like to build on her balanced position on the war in Ukraine at a time when Western countries, led by the United States, have waged an economic and political war (as well as indirect military ones in Ukraine) in order to marginalize Russia's standing and isolate its leader.
There is no doubt that the Russian president's reception after his return to his country of both Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Crown Prince of the Sultanate of Oman, Dhi Yazan bin Haitham Al Said, falls within the framework of the new Russian outlook on the Middle East, which may release a set of positions and policies and highlight the role required for Moscow in mapping the outcome of the Gaza war on the future of the world and the Middle East.
The Gaza war has introduced a new reality that draws water to Moscow's mills. The event provides a narrative that favors Russia's narrative in assessing the Western world led by the United States, especially in terms of its double standards in approaching the Gaza and Ukraine wars. Images of mass destruction in Gaza covered the devastation of cities in Ukraine from the war there. The event also refloated Putin's rhetoric in the Middle East amid confusion in the rhetoric of the United States and US President Joe Biden in charting a convincing and credible path to ending the war in Gaza and the historic conflict in the Middle East. The event highlighted a Russian effort at the Security Council to introduce a draft resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza that was thwarted by a Western counter-vote and voted in favor of a resolution introduced by the United Arab Emirates on Friday and foiled by a US veto.
Despite Washington's efforts to demonstrate communication with China to discuss the exits of the war in Gaza amid the absence of any US-Russian communication outside the framework of the Ukraine war, the United States is discovering every day that it is no longer the party capable of imposing its vision in the Middle East without consensus with all countries in the region, and that these countries also believe that major key countries in Europe such as Russia and China should be part of the upcoming transformations.
The internal debate in the United States over the relevance and costs of the emerging US military build-up in the Middle East and the high levels of disagreement and friction with Israel are pushing Washington to lure regional and international partnerships from which Russia and China cannot be far away. This controversy comes in line with another debate within Congress over the validity of continuing to support Ukraine, which necessitated Washington's use of the talents of British Foreign Secretary (former Prime Minister) David Cameron to convince US lawmakers of the necessities of continuing this support.
Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE wanted to assert their partnership within the current international landscape. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi wanted to emphasize their commitment to the strategic progress achieved in their relations with Russia (and with the East in general: China, India, Japan, South Korea). etc). Putin, who the British magazine The Economist admits "as if he can win" in Ukraine, seemed more confident, opening through this visit and this view of the Middle East and the Arab world a stage in which the world reaches a stage in which the Ukraine war, despite its importance, has become a file and not the only file in Moscow's approach to the world.