The recent decision by the United State to relocate its air defense system from Saudi Arabia has somewhat made the oil-rich kingdom shaky, which has now pushing it closer to Russia. According to reports, Saudi deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman last month signed a major military cooperation agreement at an arms expo in Moscow with his Russian counterpart.
The deal reportedly is to buy S-400 missile defense shield from Russia. It comes as a surprise, rather shock, that being an U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia is getting closer to Russia. But that is what others like India and Turkey too have done in recent times.
Starting a New Relationship
Saudi Arabia isn't keeping anything secret about the military cooperation with Russia. It might take the United States by surprise but it seems the oil-rich nation isn't too perturbed about it.
In fact, Prince Khalid took to Twitter to announce the agreement after coming back from the expo, He mentioned that the deal was "aimed at developing joint military cooperation between the two countries."
He also acknowledged his meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, which he said was aimed at "exploring ways to strengthen the military and defense cooperation" between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Experts believe that the Kingdom right now might be forced to finally seal the S-400 air defense system deal with the Russians which it has been toying with for years. The system will add muscle to the Islamic Kingdom's air defense system as it will be capable of protecting it from increasing Iranian-backed missile attacks.
Understandably, the defense deal with Russia and the idea to buy $400 air defense system hints at the beginning of a radical foreign policy shift by Saudi Arabia in light of the new geopolitical realities shaping up in the Middle East following Donald Trump's defeat in the US elections.
Saudi-U.S. Relationship Souring
Satellite images obtained by the Associated Press late last month shows locations of batteries' pads empty at the Prince Sultan Air Base, 70 miles southeast of Riyadh. This indicates that air defense equipment had been moved by the US forces.
The Biden administration's attempts to engage Iran by renewing the Obama-era nuclear complicates a lot of things, which definitely has, if not angered, but definitely upset the Saudi-US strategic partnership.
Moreover, America's decision to pull out its advanced missile defense systems such as Patriot and THAAD systems from Saudi has further angered its regime. This happened at a time when the Kingdom oil; installations and airports was under constant Iranian and Houthi missile strikes.
If that was not enough, the hasty decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the Biden administration, bequeathing power to Taliban, might have further soured the Saudi-US security relationship further. Saudi was always an U.S. ally in defense matters but no longer trusts it under the new Biden administration.
The withdrawal of the air defense system by the United States has once again exposed Saudi Arabia to fresh strikes from Yemen. Thus the new strategic defense alliance with Russia was the only choice left.
In an interview with CNBC last week, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, said, "I think we need to be reassured about American commitment. That looks like, for example, not withdrawing Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia at a time when Saudi Arabia is the victim of missile attacks and drone attacks â not just from Yemen, but from Iran."
His comments reflected a general feeling of resentment among the Saudi royal family toward the evolving U.S.-Middle East policy. That at the same time shows how U.S. allies are fast detaching themselves and forming new strategic defense deal with Russia.