Why the Gulf Is Reluctant to Accept Russia’s Concept of Regional Security

The visit of the Russian president to Saudi Arabia is of great importance and is part of Russia’s efforts to strengthen its role in the Middle East and throughout the world, writes Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Al-Faraj, Assistant Chairman of the Centre for Research and Intercommunication Knowledge for Scientific Affairs. Since 2015, the Middle East has become a testing ground for the multipolar world order among the great powers, including Russia. It is clear that Russia is steadily moving to become a powerful global pole and a pillar of the world order, which will follow the current transition period.

This is the second time the Russian president has come to the Kingdom. On his first visit in 2007, the Russian president came to Saudi Arabia after delivering his famous speech at the Munich Security Conference. In that speech, he issued his own verdict on the unipolar world order created after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Since 2007, many things have changed and that world order has become a multipolar world order. However, the threat to global peace and security has increased rather than decreased. The reason is that the global system is starting to enter a transitional period. Such transitions happen in the world about once per century. Therefore, the world order we are witnessing now is like the one that existed in 1914 – when the UK was the leader of the world. But at the beginning of the twentieth century, the capabilities of the United Kingdom were not the same as they had been before. The reason is that other countries that were gaining strength had become London’s rivals for leadership. In addition to France, these included Germany, the Russian Empire and the United States, which all aspired to replace the United Kingdom and take the leadership of the world.

However, altering the world’s balance of power, as is well known, required two world wars; only after the end of World War II was the United Kingdom replaced by the United States and Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States became the world leader alone. Washington became the legislator of international law and its guardian and police officer.

But since 2008, after the global economic crisis, which started in the USA, the world order has been evolving, as Putin foresaw at the Munich conference in 2007, on his way to the kingdom. China and Russia started to compete with the United States for global leadership. The first in the field of economics and the second in the field of military potential.

But this struggle for leadership is difficult to turn into a hot war, as happened after 1914. With weapons of mass destruction, the world will not go crazy and will not be drawn into a world war that would destroy it. Therefore, we see an outbreak of global commercial wars instead of armed wars. The use of economic sanctions as weapons is also expanding, which could lead to the transformation of trade wars between large industrial centres into financial wars. Therefore, it is not known which of the contestants will reach the finish line before their opponents and which of them will come to the finish line whole and not harmful: whether it is one country capable of establishing a new unipolar world order, or several states that will come to the finish line at the same time. Will the world then have a multipolar order? Thus, the distribution of power and interests among the victorious states will be proportional to the remaining strength of the winners when they come to the finish line.

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The Russian president’s visit to the kingdom comes at a time when China has become the most important trading partner. Trade between Saudi Arabia and China has developed so rapidly that China has become a strategic trading partner for the kingdom. In spite of that, Washington remains Riyadh’s strategic ally, not Beijing. Therefore, Russia has two major challenges in developing its relationship with the Kingdom: there is China, Saudi Arabia’s strategic trade partner, which Russia does not have the potential to eclipse in the short or medium term. And there is America, which remains Riyadh’s strategic ally; coordination with Washington as a partner has enabled the kingdom to become a regional leader; Russia cannot replace the US in this respect.

The visit of the Russian president to the Kingdom is of great importance and is part of Russia’s efforts to strengthen its role in the Middle East and throughout the world. Since 2015, the Middle East has become a testing ground for the multipolar world order among the great powers, including Russia. It is clear that Russia is steadily moving to become a powerful global pole and a pillar of the world order, which will follow the current transition period. Therefore, the future role and position of Russia will depend on how much it can protect itself from all kinds of pressure, including the economic sanctions it is facing which are aimed at weakening it.

Since the meeting between the nation’s founder, His Majesty King Abdulaziz, and US President Roosevelt in 1945, the Kingdom has been in an alliance with the United States. This American position was strengthened after US President Eisenhower and later Jimmy Carter declared their own Doctrines. The Kingdom and the Gulf region have since been a sphere of US vital interests. Therefore, the Persian Gulf area is different from Syria, despite all the change in the American position after the announcement of the Obama Doctrine, which reflects the weakness that had begun to occur in United States and the loss of the ability to focus on two fronts at the same time. Therefore, given China’s growing capacity, Washington wants to focus on that country. Nevertheless, that does not mean Washington has lost interest in the Gulf.

On this basis, it is difficult for Russia, given this delicate balance in the Gulf region, to market its concept of Gulf security at the expense of the American concept.

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