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Signs of Changing Times; Russia and Qatar Sign Agreement on Military Cooperation and Agree to S-400 Sales - Bahrain Could Follow

November 06th - 2017

In a move which would have been considered unthinkable just a year ago, Qatar has signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation with Russia. The agreement was signed between Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the Qatari Defense Ministry. The historic ceremony was attended by Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Qatari counterpart Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah. The arms package includes a $500-million deal for S-400 air defense systems and shorter ranged Pantsir-S1 air defenses. Qatar also reportedly signed orders for light armored vehicles, tank weapons systems and other weapons systems.

Qatar's decision to purchase Russian arms is part of a growing trend on both Arab and Iranian sides of the Persian Gulf to seek Russian weapons. These states were in Soviet times all secure U.S. and Western military clients, and their shift away from the West represents a major shift in the global balance of power to the detriment of U.S. interests. It comes just weeks after Saudi Arabia placed an order for its own S-400 system, a few months after NATO member Turkey did the same. Iran has also purchased S-300 systems among other Russian made arms. According to Russian media Bahrain is also considering purchasing the S-400 - with the commander of Bahrain's Royal Guards Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa stating that his country was "currently in the stage of negotiations, but with God's help we will finish this process. Bahrain and Russia have established broad cooperation in the military sector. Meetings are being held, negotiations are taking place, relations have also been established between the leadership of two countries."

The Arab Gulf States' shift to purchasing Russian arms are a result of a number of factors. These include the growing perception that the United States cannot be relied on alone for their security, the fact that Russian arms can provide arms with capabilities their U.S. equivalents cannot match, and the fact that such purchases can help these states curry favor with Moscow to neutralize it as a major ally of the Arabs' regional rival Iran. Indeed, it could well be a combination of all these factors. Whatever it's causes however, the Gulf States' military pivot to Russia represents an unprecedented phenomenon and a major loss of Western influence in a strategically critical region.

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