Apparently, Washington has decided to crush Russia along with Iran and Syria, without waiting for the arrival of Hillary Clinton as a newly elected head of state. It looks like behind the scenes, rulers of America are afraid of the possible victory of Donald Trump during the upcoming election. Therefore, they are in a rush to achieve their primary strategic goal – to bring down Vladimir Putin and induce regime change in Russia at any cost. In a bid to achieve this goal they are relying on two strategies – the dropping of oil prices and the undermining of Russia’s and Iran’s positions in Syria. The recent scandal with the Olympics, brilliantly organized by Washington, London, Paris and Berlin, has struck a painful blow to Moscow’s reputation. A possible defeat in Syria could be even more painful, especially if it is accompanied by continuously decreasing oil prices, which would undermine Russia’s economy. These days, America has no time to spare, and it’s not only presidential elections that forces Western think tanks to work around the clock. Washington is fairly concerned with the situation in Turkey. Ankara apparently decided to turn to Russia. There has also been a constant string of terrorist attacks in Europe. In this respect the recent attacks in Germany sound particularly troublesome for Washington, since this European power has remained for years, a stronghold of European security. For sure, Washington is turning yet again to Saudi Arabia, without which Washington has no chances to push Russia out of global oil markets.
Apparently, nobody paid attention to the fact that almost immediately after Mohammad bin Salman Al’s visit to the US in mid-June, Washington released the 9/11 report in spite of all the promises and agreements. This is the very report that states that members of the Saudi royal family were involved in the preparations of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. But why would they do something like this if the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia has promised Washington full assistance in all the possible areas, including military and security cooperation?
This development was followed by an equally strange statement made by the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister on July 22. Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir announced that Saudi Arabia is prepared to assist Russia in becoming a great power in the Middle East, which would enjoy the same influence that the Soviet Union used to. A Saudi top diplomat said that he’s convinced that it would be reasonable for Russia to enjoy close ties with Saudi Arabia, instead of assisting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, since Russia may gain access to the markets of the GCC member states and obtain serious investments.
There’s no doubt that the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey has clearly influenced Riyadh’s stance on the Syrian crisis in light of the possible rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara. Should the attempts of Tehran and Ankara to establish close communication channels succeed, all power in the region will be in the hands of Russia, Turkey and Iran, which would be an extremely worrisome development for Saudi Arabia. By exploiting this fact, Washington has forced the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to launch an economic crusade against Moscow yet again. It should be noted that Riyadh’s position is heavily influenced by the EU which has suffered a string of terrorist attacks in recent weeks. Those terrorist attacks were carried out by ISIS, against which Moscow and Tehran have been fighting successfully. For this reason, Assad’s resignation is no longer being demanded in Europe anymore.
Russia’s military presence in Syria has radically changed the balance of powers in the region. Moscow’s determination to move in to save Damascus was an unpleasant surprise for the West and the GCC. Especially due to the fact that Russian-Syrian relations were not believed to be close enough for Moscow to interfere in such an unpredictable war. Back in 2003, the Kremlin abandoned Saddam Hussein almost without a fight, although Iraq was more important an ally for Moscow than Syria today. Russian-Iranian military cooperation in Syria along with common interests played a decisive role in this turn. At the same time, the tense situation in Yemen, the depletion of the financial resources of Saudi Arabia provoked by declining oil prices, along with countless victims of terrorist attacks in Europe have led to the weakening of Saudi positions in Syria.
Once the US and Saudi diplomatic efforts regarding Syria failed, Moscow and Tehran started to dictate their own rules for the game. This forced Riyadh back into contact with Moscow. Washington calculated that Riyadh was a perfect answer to the question of how to get Russia’s support while providing nothing in return. And the words of Saudi foreign ministers during a recent visit to Brussels, about Riyadh’s desire to hand over more power to Russia in the Middle East today than back in the Soviet era, makes it even more clear. Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir has stated that Russia’s return to the status of superpower is now complete, and its influence will never be less than that of the United States and the European Union.
Moreover, many experts say that Moscow is not interested in Assad as a person, it is only concerned with its own interests in the region. But Saudi Arabia has tried to play this trick on Russia time and time again, promising lucrative contracts that were retracted immediately once Saudi Arabia got what it was after.
But now the situation is more complicated. There are a lot of voices that say that if Moscow agrees to the Saudi proposal it would mean the restoration of Russia’s economy, especially when Riyadh to other Gulf states remove the pressure they’ve been applying on hydrocarbon markets. And then Vladimir Putin will be able to improve the conditions that most Russian citizens live in, thus reducing criticism within the country. Should this proposal be accepted, Russia would allegedly open a new horizon of cooperation with Europe and the United States, and the conflict with the West over Ukraine would gradually come to naught due to the recovery of the regional role of Russia as a key player on the settlement of the Syrian crisis.
Hopefully, Russia will not believe Saudi promises this time either, since if it does it will fall into yet another trap of the KSA. Saudi Arabia is always able to dramatically drop oil prices to undermine Russia’s economy, yet Moscow will have no means to return to Syria’s and Iran’s trust.
Should Moscow refuse, it will still retain its position as the most effective player in the region, since all the cards are now in Moscow’s hands. It will restore its former presence in the Middle East along with obtaining the much-needed support of Iran, and Turkey as well. Tehran and Ankara do only respect the strong. And at the same time it will force the US to go after regime change in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the preservation of the Russian military presence in Syria will not allow a land route for the delivery of Qatari natural gas to Europe, which was to pass through Syrian territory, allowing Moscow to maintain its primacy in Europe in the field of gas exports.
Now comes the crucial moment for Russia, and Iran and Syria. Moscow is under a tremendous amount of pressure from the West and the GCC. Sanctions are continuing. NATO is closing in on Russia’s borders. And while it is not clear who will move into the White House, the Russian Federation is in no position to strike a deal with Saudi Arabia. One can only hope that logic will prevail over the desire to quickly solve all problems based on Saudi promises that are unlikely to be fulfilled.
Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”