The official visit today by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first by a Russian president to the UAE, signifies the extent of growth and sophistication the country's foreign diplomacy has achieved thus far. The keenness shown by both countries to strengthen ties in all areas reflects how each nation appreciates and understands the important standing of the other.
Undoubtedly, the relationship between the UAE and Russia is the culmination of a steady and natural build-up over previous decades. Today's relations should be viewed in retrospect to the efforts of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan who had laid the basis as to how the UAE relates to the world.
"We extend our hand of friendship to the countries and peoples of the entire world. We cannot live life in isolation of the world. There is no reason for us to shy away from the friendship of a people or a country," he said.
Within this context, officials from the then-USSR visited Abu Dhabi in January 1972 during which both sides had agreed to exchange diplomatic relations with embassies opening in Abu Dhabi in 1981 and in Moscow in 1984. The UAE was also prompt in recognising the new independent republics including Russia when a new political setup ushered in the former USSR in 1991.
This principle of openness towards Russia was built upon further when General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited Moscow last year during which he identified trade, tourism, and military-technical cooperation as the three main areas of collaboration between the two countries.
The UAE has demonstrated that in order to be able to adequately deal with a changing world, an evolutionary process requires being an active participant on many fronts.