In early October 2017, Russia welcomed an honoured (and strategically important) guest. King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made a landmark first state visit to Moscow. The King was accompanied by 1,500 people, many of them public officials and CEOs of large companies, including the head of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser. With the hopes of securing multi-billion dollar contracts, and strategic political and energy deals at stake, the Kremlin went above and beyond to ensure the visit exceeded protocol success.

Their enthusiasm seems to be paying off.

Almost a month after the visit, the courtship between Russia and the Saudis is yet to show signs of a slowdown. On 1-2 November, a delegation of Russian businessmen returned the visit to Saudi Arabia where concrete trading opportunities were discussed (RIA, 02.11.2017). In the latest friendly gesture, the Food Safety Ministries of both countries signed a deal that opened Saudi Arabia’s food market to Russian beef, poultry, dairy and eggs (RT, 01.02.2017).A day later, Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to ease mutual visa requirements for certain, undisclosed groups of people (TASS, 02.11.2017).

Impact points

  • As the two powers continue to exchange pleasantries and business propositions, the rest of the world is left to speculate about the foreign policy implications and longevity of this rapprochement.  
  • While it is premature to speak about ‘tectonic shifts in the regional order’, the visit certainly holds a pragmatic importance for political and commercial power players from both sides.