Saudi Arabia and Russia have signed six agreements about peaceful use of nuclear technology whilst at the same time oil ministers’ of both countries met in St. Petersburg to discus a possible cooperation agreement.
Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi, praised the new partnership, saying, “This, in turn, will lead to creating a petroleum alliance between the two countries for the benefit of the international oil market as well as producing countries and stabilizing and improving the market.”
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A ‘petroleum alliance’ between Saudi Arabia and Russia to stabilize the global oil market? It sounds unlikely, particularly with all the talk about the U.S. and Saudi Arabia secretly agreeing to collapse Russia’s economy by crashing the price of oil in 2014, not to mention how the two countries diametrically oppose one another on issues such as Syria, Iran, and Yemen.
But again, Saudi Arabia is under new leadership and is not the same country it was a year ago. The delegation sent to Russia this past week was of the absolute highest level, and the fact that the statement was given directly by Mr. Naimi, as opposed to some all-too-common ‘senior official’ or ‘unnamed source’, speaks volumes.
Naimi — the redoubtable 80-year-old boss of Arabian black gold — is a living legend in the Kingdom (he started his career with Saudi Aramco at the age of 11), and wields more power there than anyone who isn’t the king. Statements from him on Saudi energy policy are not thoughts or opinions. Rather, they are facts and policies; and they would never be stated without the explicit approval and authority of the king.
Put simply, Mr. Naimi just declared a new direction in Saudi Arabian foreign policy.
This is just the beginning of a new chapter in Saudi-Russian relations. During his meeting with President Putin, Prince Muhammad publicy announced that his father had offically invited the Russian president to the Kingdom, stating, “I have the honor to pass on an invitation to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we regard Russia as one of the important states in the contemporary world, and our relations have roots in the past.”
Mr. Putin accepted the king’s invitation to visit the Gulf state and in turn announced that he had invited the king to Moscow, which the deputy crown prince confirmed had been accepted. These meetings — if and when they take place — will be events to be followed very closely.