Rostec, a Russian state-owned company that brings together several defense industries, has announced that it is negotiating the supply of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The company’s disclosure, made to RT by its president, the powerful Sergei Tchemezov on Wednesday (24), comes at a time when the United States is putting pressure on the Riyadh regime, even threatening to suspend sales of arms to the ally in the Gulf. Persian.
Last week, the new US president, Joe Biden, snubbed the de facto ruler of the oil kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS. He said he would talk to his father, King Salman, on the phone.
It was a predictable slap in the face for MbS, whom Biden accuses of giving Saudi Arabia “pariah” status. Under his command, the country is leading a brutal intervention in the Yemeni civil war, and a journalist critical of the regime has been stationed in Turkey.
In conversation with the King on Thursday (25), Biden’s discomfort over Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder was implied. US intelligence accuses MbS of mastermind of the crime, and a secret report on the case will be revealed. by Biden.
At the same time, the American is making overtures to try to negotiate the return of the United States to the nuclear agreement to keep Iran, the deadly enemy of the Saudis, without the atomic bomb. So far, Riyadh’s move has been to form a broad front to face Tehran.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, lacked such modesty. He signed a letter of intent to supply an additional $ 110 billion ($ 594 billion) in weapons to the kingdom in 2017.
One of the Democrat’s first steps in January was to make some of those contracts, selling 7,500 smart bombs for $ 500 million (2.7 billion reais).
Next is Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who, in two decades in power, has specialized in occupying the gaps left by the West to elevate his position as a global player.
Since 2017, the Russian has been getting closer to the Saudis, despite chills like in the 2020 oil price war. He and King Salman have signed technical-military cooperation protocols, but so far this has not not generated major business.
Now Chemezov says Russia can supply Sukhoi Su-35 fighters and S-400 anti-aircraft systems, two stars in Moscow’s military portfolio. “The negotiation process is ongoing,” he said.
As no one has denied, not even behind the scenes, on the other side, it is possible that he is. The idea of selling the S-400 had already been put forward by Putin to the Saudis when Shiite rebels from Yemen attacked the kingdom’s oil refineries in September 2019.
The system is today the most advanced on the world market. Its sale to Turkey, a nominal ally of the United States and a member of NATO (the league of Western powers), sparked a crisis between Ankara and Washington that was still unfinished.
The United States feared that the stealth technology of its most advanced fighter, the F-35, could be scrutinized by the S-400’s sensors, because Turkey would be equipped with it. Result: the sale was canceled and the Turks were withdrawn from the international consortium that is part of the plane.
In the Saudi case, this is not in question, but there is an important symbolic point. For decades Riyadh has been Americans’ greatest ally among Sunni Arab countries, which see the kingdom as the spearhead against rival Iran’s expansion into the Middle East.
With its many petrodollars, Saudi Arabia has become a major consumer of American and Western weapons. It has the third largest fleet of powerful F-15 firefighters in the world, behind the United States and Japan, as well as European models like the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Panavia Tornado.
In 2019, it managed the third largest military budget in the world, dropping to ninth place in 2020, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies – the side effect of the sharp drop in oil prices during the pandemic.
So if he does manage to set up the S-400 in the Saudi sands and still see the Su-35, the most advanced version of the classic family of heavy fighters known as the Flanker by NATO, flying there below, Putin will mark a geopolitical double. goal.
The Su-35 is already operated in the region by Egypt, which has ordered 24 planes.
He will enter a rich market closed to Russians, in addition to strengthening his position as a regional mediator, as he works closely with Tehran on issues such as the civil war in Syria.
It’s also possible that the Saudis signaled the Russians to go shopping as a way to send a message to Biden: there will always be someone to turn to.
The point is, the US president may speak harshly to MbS, who was close to Trump, but he’s practically a done deal: anointed by his unhealthy father, he performed palatial purges that left him in an almost despotic position – This in an absolutist monarchy that has always worked with various internal poles of power.
As Biden makes up his mind, Putin did his best and ran to take advantage of the situation. He maintains a good dialogue with Iran, with Israel, works in Syria, maintains strained relations with Turkey and is close to the Saudis.
He also appointed an ally, the President of the Russian Muslim Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadirov, as a liaison with the smaller Gulf monarchies, with the United Arab Emirates ahead.
When a regional war breaks out, and there they are, Putin may be the only external actor in that position.