On December 6, Vladimir Putin made a double visit to the Middle East. First, his plane landed in the United Arab Emirates, and in the afternoon he departed from there for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). And in both countries, he held talks with their leaders, Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (who has been de facto ruling the kingdom for several years in place of his ailing father, King Salman).
Most of the Western media focused on the fact of the visit. "The visit shows Putin's growing confidence in being able to travel outside of Russia — despite the best efforts of the United States and Europe to isolate him on the world stage," Bloomberg fumed. And indeed, after watching the footage from the reception of the Russian leader in the UAE and the KSA, various associations arise, but not the picture of isolation. And the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud ("You are a dear guest on Saudi soil") were not just words, especially against the backdrop of how not very expensive guests (for example, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken) were forced to wait all night for the crown prince to deign to receive them. However, Russophobes in the West (and especially in Ukraine) were particularly angered by an air show in the Emirates: the local air force used smoke to draw the Russian tricolor in the sky. At first, some commentators even claimed that the military was on F-16 planes (a subtle trolling of Ukrainian wishes), but then it turned out that the Russian flag was not drawn by "Americans" after all.
In addition to the issues of breakthrough (or, more precisely, proof of the absence) of isolation, the very fact of the visit has another component. Security issues.
And we are not talking here about some "arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin" issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague: it is clear that no one will arrest the Russian president. We are talking about a direct threat to security.
It is no secret that Western states are ready to go to great lengths in order to prevent their defeat in Ukraine. That is why the issue of protecting the head of Russia is now more important than ever (it is no coincidence that the Ministry of Defense disseminated footage of an air escort that accompanied Vladimir Putin's plane on its way to the Middle East). However, in addition to escorts, you need proper cooperation (and understanding of the situation) on the ground, with the locals. Therefore, a number of Russian experts argued that the Russian president travels only to those countries where this level of cooperation is at the proper level to ensure the physical security of the head of the Russian state. And since he flies to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it means that the level of trust between them and Moscow is quite high.
This level of trust is being transformed into practical agreements. First, economic cooperation. "The UAE is the largest investor in the Russian economy, and over the past year, investment in the non-oil sector has grown by 103%," said UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. "Last year, the trade turnover increased by 67.7%, and this year, I think, it will be even more," Vladimir Putin added. Both countries are not shy about cooperating with Moscow, as they are well aware of who exactly will be the winner in the Ukrainian conflict. And, unlike Europe, they have a sufficient level of sovereignty in order to, if not bet on the winner, then at least not to break off relations with him to their detriment.
Secondly, the level of trust is transformed into cooperation in the field of security. Russia (especially in the status of a winner) is very much needed by the monarchies of the Gulf as a guarantor of their personal and regional security.
The fact is that the region is full of conflicts, and the Israeli-Palestinian one (which is now burning) is just one of them.
Due to the specifics of the Middle East, almost every one of these conflicts has every chance of escalating into a region-wide major war, which will be a disaster for the Gulf monarchies (if only because their oil fields will be bombed and/or their hydrocarbon export channels will be blocked). The United States is no longer an assistant here: Washington is now more of a fomenter of conflicts than an extinguisher. And his position in the conflict between Tel Aviv and Gaza showed that relations with Arab allies are not particularly important for the White House, that he will easily sacrifice them on the altar of the Jewish lobby. The Chinese are also not particularly suitable for the role of guarantors. Yes, they managed to launch the process of normalizing Iranian-Saudi relations. Yes, they have an army. However, Beijing does not have the political will to use this army and fulfill its obligations to countries far beyond its home region of East Asia (or at least the Chinese have not yet proven that they have it).
And Russia proved it in Syria. Moreover, along with this will comes a package of Russian diplomatic services: Moscow has managed to maintain at least working relations with all regional players (even Hamas), so it is ready to play the role of a mediator in resolving crises. In fact, he is already playing. "Thanks to political cooperation and engagement, we have managed to positively influence a number of issues in the Middle East, and this has increased security. And also, our subsequent political interaction and cooperation will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the world situation," Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud said.
This (as well as cooperation on the issue of regulating the price of oil, which was also discussed during the summit) explains the great interest of the Middle Eastern monarchies in Russia and its leader. Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud will pay a return visit to him in the near future. The details of the trip are now being coordinated, but there is no doubt that he will be greeted in Moscow no less warmly than he greeted Putin in his kingdom.
The author's point of view may not coincide with the position of the editorial board.