The ignominious US withdrawal from Afghanistan has blown a global hole in the post-1945 American Century system of elaborate world domination, a power vacuum that likely will lead to irreversible consequences. The immediate case in point is whether Biden’s Washington strategists—as he clearly makes no policy—have already managed to lose the support of its largest arms buyer and regional strategic ally, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since the first days of Biden’s inauguration in late January, US policies are driving the Saudi monarchy to pursue a dramatic shift in foreign policy. The longer-term consequences could be enormous….
The dramatic collapse of US presence in Afghanistan gives all parties a clear idea that, regardless of who is US President, US institutional powers behind the scenes pursue an agenda of destruction, and can no longer be relied on to be true to their promises of support.
The implications of a genuine Saudi-Iran agreement would be a major pivot in geopolitical terms. In addition to ending the Yemen war and the proxy Syrian war, it could end the destructive stalemate in Lebanon between Iran-backed Hezbollah and major Saudi interests there. Here is where the recent arms talks between Riyadh and Moscow become more than interesting.
Russia’s pivotal role
Into this geopolitical cocktail of competing interests, the role of Russia becomes strategic. Russia is the one major foreign military power that has aimed at ending the Sunni-Shiite proxy wars and creating stability across Eurasia into the Middle East, a direct challenge to Washington’s Cebrowski-Barnett strategy of deliberate instability and chaos.
In April this year Russian President Vladimir Putin and a delegation of business leaders made a rare visit to Riyadh, the first by Putin in 12 years. It was billed as an energy partnership meeting, but clearly was far more. Deals worth $2 billion were reported with agreements covering oil, space and satellite navigation, health, mineral resources, tourism and aviation. Both countries agreed to cooperate to stabilize oil prices, a major step. Putin and MBS stressed that oil and natural gas would continue to play a major role for years to come, a slap in the face of the Davos Great Reset green agenda. Russia’s RDIF Sovereign Wealth Fund also opened its first foreign office in Riyadh.
Taken alone it was interesting, but the fact it has been followed four months later by a visit by Saudi Arabia’s Vice Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman to Russia to the annual International Military Technical Forum (ARMY 2021) near Moscow, gives new significance to growing Saudi-Russian ties as well at a time Biden & Co. are “recalibrating” US-Saudi ties as the State Department put it, whatever that means. Khalid tweeted, “I signed an agreement 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.” Bin Salman also added, “Met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to explore ways to strengthen the military and defense cooperation and discussed our common endeavor to preserve stability and security in the region.” Notably, Russia has conducted joint military exercises with Iran for the past several years and is also well suited to foster a Saudi-Iran detente.
The Moscow talks came only weeks after the Pentagon and Biden Administration announced it was removing eight Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and Iraq, as well as removing a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system from the Saudi Kingdom, and accelerating the withdrawal of US troops from the region, moves that hardly boost confidence in Washington as protector of Saudi Arabia. The world’s finest anti-missile defense technology, the S-400 air defense system, happens to be made in Russia, as do a broad array of other military equipment.
All these moves by the Saudis are clearly not going to lead to an overnight break with Washington. But clear is that the Saudi monarchy has understood, especially in the wake of the abrupt Biden abandonment of Afghanistan to the Taliban, that continued dependence on a US security umbrella it has enjoyed since the 1970’s oil shocks, is a fading illusion. MBS clearly realizes that he has been played by both Trump and now Biden. The tectonic plates of Middle East and Eurasian geopolitics are shifting and the implications are staggering.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”