Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to sign a $3.5 Bln worth arms deal, general director of Russian state-owned corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov said in an interview with Tass news agency.
The deal will be finalized during King Salman’s next visit to Russia, which is supposed to take place by the end of the year, the Kommersant newspaper reported, adding that both sides are still working on the details and that additional deals may be arranged.
Russia is the world’s second largest weapons exporter with total sales exceeding $15 billion annually. The country tried to broker a lucrative arms deal with Saudi Arabia in 2012, when the Gulf kingdom signed a preliminary agreement worth $20 billion, Chemezov said.
That deal stalled when Saudi attached stipulations contrary to Russian interests, including a demand that Russia not sell S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Th system, regarded as one of the deadliest in the world, is a sensitive topic for both Russian and western diplomats, due to its power and capabilities. In an act of defiance President Putin removed all legal barriers to the export of the S-300 and sold the system to Iran for an estimated $1 billion.
Some analysts and experts fear that Russia’s decision to sell expensive weapons to Saudi Arabia could be a grave mistake and that the country could use its military power to bully Qatar into submission, adding more tension to the region.
The diplomatic and economic blockade of Qatar by its neighbors has plunged the Middle East into further discord. On June 5, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates announced a complete boycott of Qatar, accusing the country of aiding regional terrorist groups. However, the primary reason for the condemnation is Qatar’s relationship with Iran.
The conflict has rapidly come to a head. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) gave Qatar a deadline of July 2 for meeting 13 demands, ranging from ending relations with Iran to closing down the Al-Jazeera TV station. Not one of the demands was ever likely to have been met; in fact, many of them were based on false premises about Qatar’s behavior to begin with.
Because Qatar complied with none of the GCC’s demands, the gambit’s lack of coherence is being laid bare. Without a plan B, immediate escalation is unlikely to transpire. Instead, it is probable that both sides will go forward for the time being in a state of mutual diplomatic paralysis. The GCC may apply additional token “sanctions,” but neither side is likely to back down soon; the stare-down will continue apace.