The Saudi-Iranian dimension of Russia’s military diplomacy is the latest frontier of this policy after Armenia & Azerbaijan, China & India, Syria & Turkiye, and most recently China & the Philippines following Moscow’s approval of Brahmos exports to Manila last month.
RT reported that the Director of Exports for the joint Russo-Indo BrahMos Aerospace venture told TASS on the sidelines of last week’s World Defense Show in Saudi Arabia that the Kingdom is in talks with their company to purchase its famous supersonic cruise missiles. In his words, “There has been a great deal of interest shown here [in Saudi Arabia], and we have previously met with Saudi delegations at other exhibitions. We are very hopeful for these negotiations.”
The Saudis would bolster their balancing act by buying these wares since it’ll help to diversify from their disproportionate military-industrial dependence on the US, which had previously restricted the sale of offensive weapons during the Biden Administration’s early days to pressure them on the Yemeni War. This politicized betrayal of their strategic partnership convinced Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) that America is an unreliable ally that’s not below playing games with his country’s security.
Washington thought that withholding these exports from Riyadh could coerce it into ending the hot phase of that conflict, but it was already drawing down anyhow due to the stalemate that set in after years of warfare, so it’s inaccurate to link these two even though some pundits still do for political reasons. The lesson that MBS learned is that it’s high time to accelerate his Kingdom’s geostrategic recalibration that first began after his father King Salman’s historic trip to Moscow in October 2017.
The intervening three years saw the world continue to struggle with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and then the equally disruptive ones brought about the special operation that Russia was compelled to commence in Ukraine. The challenges inherent in doing so partially explain the delay between the US’ offensive arms restrictions to Saudi Arabia and the latter’s interest in the jointly produced Russo-Indo BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles since it had more pressing priorities.
Moreover, last spring’s Chinese-brokered Saudi-Iranian rapprochement played a key role in this context since it reduced the chances that their security dilemma would be exacerbated by Riyadh’s purchase of these wares, which Moscow might have been reluctant to approve due to its close ties with Tehran. It’s one thing to deliver the flamethrowers in 2019 that it agreed to sell in 2017 since these have limited range and another to sign off on long-distance supersonic cruise missiles that could reach Iran.
It was only after the Saudi-Iranian security dilemma was assuaged over the past year that Russia felt comfortable negotiating the export of these state-of-the-art offensive arms. The trust that was built between Russia and Saudi Arabia in the over half-decade since King Salman’s historic visit also made it possible to discuss the export of more ground-based weapons systems too. A leading Russian military-industrial representative confirmed such talks last week as well as joint weapons production plans.
Unlike the US which exports arms to a single side in any given rivalry with the intent of encouraging military means for resolving their disputes, and then possibly withholding such as blackmail for political reasons, Russian exports are aimed at maintaining the balance of power to promote political resolutions. That’s why Moscow has no compunctions selling arms to Saudi Arabia after already selling them to Iran since the Kremlin expects this to reinforce their rapprochement instead of risk ruining it.
Russia’s practice of military diplomacy is therefore of integral importance to all serious players’ balancing acts at this pivotal moment in the global systemic transition to multipolarity. It simultaneously serves to diversify dependence on their prior (usually Western) military partners while maintaining the balance of power with their (present or former) rivals via the common partner that those two then have through Russia. Moscow can then help mediate their disputes as their trusted partner if they worsen or return.
The last-mentioned diplomatic scenario doesn’t always enter into fruition but is still advantageous to have as a possibility just in case both parties are interested in it one day. In any case, it’s worthwhile pointing out that the Saudi-Iranian dimension of Russia’s military diplomacy is the latest frontier of this policy after Armenia & Azerbaijan, China & India, Syria & Turkiye, and most recently China & the Philippines following Moscow’s approval of Brahmos exports to Manila last month.
Turkiye, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia are regarded as some of the US’ traditional partners, yet even they’re now actively embracing Russia’s military diplomacy because all three of them have realized the benefits that it brings to their respective balancing acts. While some members of the Alt-Media Community dislike them due to their support of those countries’ corresponding Syrian, Chinese, and Iranian rivals, they should still appreciate the geostrategic wisdom of this pragmatic policy.