Saudi Arabia has for years tended to keep a low profile, but the signing of six strategic agreements with Russia signals that this period may be over. And it is also designed to send an important message to the United States, or more specifically, the Obama administration. For too long now, the current White House administration has bided its time as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, and hoped that the status quo would remain, no matter how Washingtons long-term friends in Riyadh were treated. But these new agreements signed Thursday – ranging from nuclear energy to military and the economy – show that Saudi Arabia is growing tired with the Obama administration, and its divergence with its own policies on the Iranian nuclear issue, Syria, Israel and other topics. In 1926, the Soviet Union was the first country to recognize the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a state, and while they differ today on some issues – specifically Syria – the two powers are clearly keen to maintain, or renew, ties.
For Moscow too, this renewal of friendship has its obvious benefits. Understandably worried that any Iranian nuclear deal will see Tehran no longer as dependent on Russia, Putin is keen not to keep all his eggs in one basket. He will also be well aware that now these lucrative agreements are signed with Saudi Arabia, many others in the region – who view the kingdom as a leader in the region – will be persuaded to come on board, and seek such partnerships across a number of fields. This might even pave the way for a new era in the Middle East, and restore some kind of equilibrium, not a system in which the U.S. is making all the decisions.