Russian media outlets are reporting that Saudi Arabia is negotiating a 2 billion dollars weapons deal with Russia which would include the sale of 150 helicopters (30 Mi-35 and 120 Mi-17), over 150 T-90C tanks, about 250 BMP-3 (infantry combat vehicle) armored vehicles and several dozens of anti-aircraft systems and complexes including the brand new S-400 Triumf missile system. In the meantime, Russia is also clearly delaying the sale of its S-300 missile system to Iran prompting some angry remarks from Iranian Chief of Staff of Iran’s Joint Armed Forces Hassan Firouzabad. Is this all a coincidence?
One needs to remember here that Saudi Arabia has often served as the USraelian Empire’s banker, providing money in support of US strategic objectives (the best examples of this are the war in Afghanistan and the US support for the Nicaraguan “Contras”). Why would Saudi Arabia, which has always relied almost exclusively on US made weapons systems, suddenly turn to Russia? Most definitely not because Russian weapons systems are better – which they undoubtedly are, by the way – as weapons purchases are almost never decided on the basis of technical capabilities. Three factors decide in such deals: the kickbacks given to the officials involved in the deal, the political pressures and allegiances of the countries involved and the offset agreements provided as an incentive by the parties (including, of course, even more kickbacks).
In this case, the US is as least as corrupt as Russia and can easily match any kickbacks, the political allegiances of the Saudis are clearly with the USA, and there is no way that Russia could offer better offset terms than the USA. Hence – the Saudi shopping spree, if confirmed and finalized, is definitely a reward for Russia’s reneging on the S-300 deal with Iran.
The Iranian military Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabad is, of course, quite correct when he asks the key question: “Don’t Russian strategists realize Iran’s geopolitical importance to their security?“. While I am quite confident that Russian strategists understand this perfectly well, I am also inclined to believe that these strategists do not have the final say in Russian policy making. Call it the almighty Dollar, or Ruble, or Riyal – the bottom line is that the Russian government appears to favor short-term economic interests over long-term national security objectives. If that is true, that is very bad news indeed.