Besides their shared interest in developing ties with China and India as well as improving traditional relations with the West, the Gulf countries have taken relations with the Russian Federation to new highs, confirming the strategic importance invested in them. This reflects an understanding of the nature of international trends and grants the Gulf states a great deal of flexibility when it comes to their alliances with countries and blocs.
But even within these parameters, the cooperation with Russia is special. The Gulf countries and Russia share many things in common, which could be turned into strategic ties serving both sides’ interests. Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area and enjoys enormous investment opportunities.
The GCC-Russia coming together in the field of energy, especially given they are the two largest oil producers, will prompt them to protect their common interests. This was reflected on oil prices after the Saudi-Russian coordination backed by the UAE and Kuwait. Oil prices have increased to acceptable rates thanks to this coordination, and which could benefit both economies.
In addition, the GCC countries will benefit from Russia’s experience in the field of nuclear energy and oil and gas exploration, with the Russian minister of industry and trade Denis Mantzrov stating that Rosneft, Gazprom and Lukoil are in talks with Bahrain on a range of projects covering the oil and gas sector.
The GCC-Russia alliance also covers space science, in which the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain attach special attention. Remarkable progress has been made in this regard and the UAE’s first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, is expected to participate in a Russian sponsored space journey in September.
Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of Roscosmos, highlighted the existence of strategic space projects with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which was also pointed out by Prince Sultan Bin Salman, who referred to cooperation with Russia to train Saudi astronauts.
The Gulf-Russia coming together also involves a military aspect. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have their own approach to localise their defence industry, which could then benefit from advanced Russian military technologies.
The cooperation in this domain has already started as was stated by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, with Russian and Arab companies implementing more than 400 projects worth $40 billion (Dh147 billion), of which 25 are funded by Russian banks.
The GCC states have sophisticated infrastructure and business structures while Russia has industrial and agricultural goods and is the largest wheat producer in the world. So Russian products can be stored in Gulf countries.
Bahrain signed an agreement with Russia to store Russian wheat and will possibly include other agricultural and industrial products in future. There are also important political, military and strategic cooperation aspects — political interests, for example, have been deeply intertwined in recent years.
This is now setting the course for many hotspots in the region, especially Syria, Libya, Sudan and Yemen. This is a natural result of the interdependence and intertwining of economic and trade interests between the two sides.
Interestingly, Alexander Pushkin, one of the Russia’s great poets of the 19th century, tried his hand to learn Arabic. However, in the current century, the advantages we have mentioned above can realise great achievements for the Gulf States and the Russian Federation.