A senior Russian official praised Saudi Arabia’s domestic reforms at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Tuesday, which many Western officials chose not to attend following the latest developments concerning the death of Islamist activist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
“Saudi Arabia is a great partner for us, not just a partner in investments or oil … we believe modernization and transformation in Saudi Arabia is truly historic,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, stated, according to a report by Euronews.
“There are many Russian companies here from the petrochemical sector and other sectors. They want to invest in Saudi Arabia,” he continued. “We believe that together with our partners we will bring billions and tens of billions in investment into Saudi Arabia.”
His remarks built upon comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
“This person was part of the Saudi elite. He was connected to certain circles in power. What is happening there it is hard to say,” Putin said. “We do not know what happened in reality. So why should we undertake any steps to deteriorate our relations with Saudi Arabia?”
The warm words were reciprocated by Turki Aldakhil, head of Saudi state media outlet Al Arabiya, who suggested extensive military cooperation with Russia could be on the table if the Trump administration went along with calls by Congress to put sanctions on Saudi Arabia.
“Russia and China are ready to fulfill Riyadh’s military needs among others,” Aldakhil wrote in an op-ed. “No one can deny that repercussions of these sanctions will include a Russian military base in Tabuk, northwest of Saudi Arabia.”
The historically sour relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia have blossomed over the last 15 months, as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has emphasized the need for closer ties. Saudi Arabia dropped its support for the Syrian rebels fighting Russian forces in Syria, agreed to work with Russia towards an end to the Syrian Civil War, and called on the U.S. to drop its sanctions on Russia pertaining to Russian activity in the Ukraine. In turn, Russia strongly backed Saudi Arabia in its dispute with Canada in August, and agreed to sell its advanced S-400 missile system to the Saudis last year.