US ally Saudi Arabia signs rare military deal with Russia
Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman inked the agreement with Russia's Colonel General Alexander Fomin at the International Military-Technical Forum (ARMY 2021), near Moscow.
It appeared to mark a major change in Saudi Arabia's defence policy, with Riyadh having bought almost all its weaponry from the US and other Western allies - such as France and the UK - over the past 50 years.
"We discussed our common endeavour to preserve stability and security in the region, and reviewed shared challenges facing our countries," Prince Khalid Tweeted after the meeting.
Prince Khalid also met with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in a meeting which he said explored ways to "strengthen military and defence cooperation between our two countries".
I signed an agreement today with the Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Colonel General Alexander Fomin between the Kingdom and the Russian Federation aimed at developing joint military cooperation between the two countries. pic.twitter.com/4gsWfp3JgK— Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان (@kbsalsaud) August 23, 2021
"We aim for a progressive development of cooperation in military and military-technical fields on the entire spectrum of issues that pose mutual interest," Shoigu said during the talks.
He also spoke of Russia's new weapons systems, all of which have "proven themselves well in Syria" - a reference to Moscow’s bloody military support for Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.
Some have suggested that the warming ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia suggest hesitancy from Riyadh about the trustworthiness of long-term ally, the US.
"Saudi Arabia, notably absent as Qatar, UAE, and other Gulf allies assisted US evacuation from Kabul, has now decided to strengthen defence ties with Russia," Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said of the agreement.
"As with most moves by MBS, this is impulsive and potentially dangerous. Saudis depend on US weapons and support."
The US shocked many of its NATO allies with its dramatic exit from Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest arms importer in the world while Russia is the globe's second-largest weapons exporter after the US.
There have been concerns raised about the sale of European and US weaponry to Saudi Arabia, over Riyadh's bloody intervention in Yemen which has seen thousands of civilians killed.
Russia has been slammed for the apparent bombing of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in Syria.
Saudi Arabia has voiced interest in purchasing the Russian S-400 air defence system in the past.