“It is good that Russia and Saudi Arabia have finally met,” said Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the Moscow think tank Observo. “It is also good that the Saudis understand that Russia is not part of the problem in the Middle East, but rather part of the solution.”
If military cooperation continued as both countries wished, the results would be positive, he said. “This visit has proved that Russia is not an ally of Iran and that it does not support the Iranian regime, but keeps a balanced policy in the Middle East.”
On the Syrian conflict, he said, Russian successes such as the Astana de-escalation process made Russia an important and needed partner for Saudi Arabia.
Nickolay Soukhov, senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences, said much depended on how agreements signed between the two countries were turned into real steps and actions.
“This visit of King Salman gives a signal that Saudi Arabia has its own independent foreign policy to decide for itself who to cooperate with,” he said.
“The two countries still have some contradictory perceptions of many issues. Some have a long history, others are new ones. However, this visit has already paved the way to find compromises and to bring both countries closer in terms of perceptions of regional issues.”
Vasiliy Kuznetsov, head of the Department for Arab and Islamic Studies at the academy, said such visits were important in themselves, regardless of the outcome.
“Throughout my experience I don’t remember a visit of a foreign leader that was so eagerly awaited as the visit of King Salman,” he said.
“This visit is not only a sign of continuous rapprochement between Russia and Saudi Arabia, but also a strong signal to the Muslim community of the Middle East that Russia is a close friendly to them.”
It was important to point out that leaders of the Muslim republics had taken part in the summit between King Salman and the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Russia is building up strategic relations with Iran, and Turkey is far from constructing alliances,” he said. “It is impossible to build a regional system without Saudi Arabia.
“The rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Russia signals that the United States has lost its credibility in the Middle East region, and that the Kingdom is looking for diversification of its strategic relations.”
During King Salman’s visit the two countries signed 15 agreements, including one for Saudi Arabia to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
The Russian Direct Investments Fund (RDIF) and Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) approved investments of more than $1 billon and launched a dozen projects in petrochemicals, energy, logistics, technology and transport infrastructure, including rail. The PIF said that it would take part in the development of Rostec City on the site of the former Tushino airfield in Moscow. The funds will also examine more than 25 projects with a total value of more than $10bn.
The two countries have also agreed to establish a new joint fund to invest in high-tech energy companies. This new structure will provide investments for fast-growing successful companies in e-commerce.
RDIF, with SIBUR, the leading Russian gas processing and petrochemicals company, and Saudi Aramco have also signed an agreement of cooperation in Saudi Arabia.
Politically, the visit of the king has given momentum to bilateral relations and put both countries on a roadmap to solve the issues of the region.
Another highlight of the visit was the Saudi cultural week in Moscow, which featured important panel discussions involving Russian and Saudi scholars and officials.