What will be keenly watched in the period ahead, therefore, is how the new alchemy transforms Russian-Saudi relationship on the whole, especially given the backdrop of cloud of uncertainty hanging heavily on US-Saudi ties at present.
Author: M. K. BHADRAKUMAR
No doubt, the steady build-up of NATO on Russia’s western border provides the backdrop to the demise of the INF Treaty. The US seeks a shift in the strategic balance in its favor. And it is shaking off all constraints limiting its arms build-up.
Make no mistake, Trump is going out of the way to help MBS survive and is not taking chances. He even blocked the CIA Director from attending a US Senate hearing on Khashoggi murder, fearing that it might provoke Saudi retaliation against American interests on vital issues such as the world oil market.
Of course, an open western military intervention can be ruled out. But the danger lies in the Ukrainian hardliners drawing encouragement from the Western support to stage more provocations against Russia that might lead to a conflict. A flare-up in Donbass between the Ukrainian army and the separatists (backed by Russia) also cannot be ruled out.
Much water has flown down the Euphrates since the 9th round of the Astana Process took place in May. Six months is a long time in politics – especially in Middle East politics. But, paradoxically, while Middle Eastern politics is in turmoil, the prospects for peace in Syria may have improved.
Moscow hopes to work together with its regional partners and Afghanistan’s friends as well as the broader international community, especially the US, to help launch a constructive intra-Afghan dialogue. The American decision to nominate an “observer” to the Moscow conference was an encouraging step.
The New Yorker report by Dexter Filkins, a Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed author with long experience in reporting from the frontlines of Middle Eastern hotspots, concludes: “Even if—especially if—M.B.S. hangs on to his position, it seems likely that the Saudi royal family, and Saudi Arabia more generally, are entering a dangerous period.”
The bottom line is that it is the post-war Syrian order that is under discussion now. However, it must be understood as well that the proxy war is not ending but is rather morphing into the diplomatic war that lies ahead, which of course will be keenly fought, given the divergent interests of the foreign protagonists.
The US-backed alliance between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and Egypt to contain Iran does not make a new regional order. Erdogan will now assert Turkey’s leadership role in the Muslim Middle East. Importantly, he is known to champion the Muslim Brotherhood as the charioteer of a New Middle East.
India will be on a slippery slope once it agrees to discuss with the US its defence relationship with Russia on a case-by-case basis. It will be an affront to India’s sovereignty and self-respect to allow the US to have a say in its relations with Russia.
Clearly, a closer coordination between Russia and China in a concerted strategy to push back at the US was expected to be a key topic at the consultations in Moscow last week. The point is, the quasi-alliance between Russia and China cannot be belittled as ‘geopolitical signaling’ anymore.
In northeastern Syria, which is dominated by the Kurdish militia, there are new stirrings. The situation on Syria’s southern border has calmed down. These substantial achievements and the fact that Syrian government has become more stable and is in greater control will give impetus to the efforts at finding a political solution to the conflict.