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Is Saudi Arabia’s Grand Strategy Shifting?

Is Saudi Arabia’s Grand Strategy Shifting?

Even in this era of global paradigmatic changes, Saudi Arabia’s shifting grand strategy is perhaps one of the most surprising developments to occur thus far, but the fast-moving Russian-Saudi rapprochement is likely to provoke an Iranian “zero-sum” reaction which could complicate Moscow’s multipolar efforts in managing the “New Middle East”.

Vladimir Putin with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the official greeting ceremony, Moscow, October 5, 2017 (Photo: Kremlin.ru)
Vladimir Putin with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the official greeting ceremony, Moscow, October 5, 2017 (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Most observers were taken aback by what to many seemed to be the inexplicable visit of Saudi King Salman to Moscow this week, wondering how and why the two long-standing Great Power rivals were able to get so close to one another in such a short period of time – and apparently without much public fanfare, too – in making this historic event possible. The usual Alt-Media demagogues decried this as a sellout of Russia’s fundamental national interests, with the most extreme pundit-provocateurs even ranting that it amounts to President Putin siding with “terrorists” such as Daesh and Al Qaeda, especially in light of Moscow’s decision to sell the much-vaunted S-400 anti-air missile systems to Riyadh and even set up a Kalashnikov production plant in the Kingdom.

Had the Saudi Arabia of 2017 been the same country as it was half a decade ago, or even last year for that matter as some could argue, then there might be some rhetorical substance to this outlandish claim no matter how false it would still be, but what most people don’t realize is that Saudi Arabia is in the process of comprehensive changes to its foreign and domestic policies, and that there’s a very high likelihood that it will moderate its traditional behavior in becoming a more responsible actor in international (and especially regional) affairs.

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