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October 6 1973 and October 6 2017; Two Days Where the Middle Eastern Balance of Power Shifted - Part Two

Russia's Return to the Arab World

October 07th - 2017

Saudi Arabian King Salman's visit to the Russian Federation was the first such visit by any Saudi leader, and symbolised a shift in the Middle Eastern balance of power away from the Western bloc and towards Russia. It is perhaps a reversal of the 1973 shift Egyptian President Sadat initiated towards the United States 44 years prior. As a result the failure of the Saudi and Western backed insurgent groups to overthrow Syria's government, Saudi Arabia's main regional rival the Islamic Republic of Iran has emerged with influence unprecedented the region's modern history. With the United States' failure to secure its objectives in the Middle East, U.S. allies are increasingly turning to Russia for security, which demonstrated its potential to play a major role in regional affairs with its decisive military intervention in Syria to ensure its ally's security. Military ties to Russia have ever since been widely sought out across the region, with all major Arab military powers as well as Turkey, Israel and Iran seeking out Russia arms.

Alongside a strengthening of economic ties, Saudi Arabia also made its first ever major purchase of Russian arms - something which would have been considered unthinkable just a few years prior due to the nature of the Arab kingdom's longstanding defence ties to Washington. Most significantly, the Arab Kingdom acquired the S-400 Triumf air defence system - deployment of which will make Saudi airspace among the best defended in the region. While the capabilities of the Patriot and THAAD systems acquired from the United States are highly questionable based on their historical performance, the S-400 has proven to be among the most effective long range SAM systems in the world - widely considered the most capable by Western, Chinese and Russian analysts. The aqusition represents part of a growing trend of U.S. Middle Eastern allies turning to Russian military equipment, including Egypt's extensive arms deals with Russia since 2013, Israel's interest in the Terminator 2 tank, and the United Arab Emirates' joint fifth generation fighter program with Russia and planned future order for Su-35 air superiority fighters. Saudi Arabia's shift is particularly meaningful however, as the country had long been the United States' most reliable Middle Eastern ally and is Washington's oldest strategic partner in the region  The Saudi King himself was an open supporter of the Islamist mujahideen in Afghanistan and the country was instrumental in bringing the downfall of the USSR through both its extensive support for the U.S. economy and its moves to lower global oil prices and cut Soviet revenues in coordination with the U.S. Reagan Administration. Whether the United States will be able to regain the confidence of its regional allies in the aftermath of its failure in Syria remains to be seen. 


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