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Russia-GCC Economic Relations: When Quality Matters more than Quantity

During the last five years, Russian relations with the GCC have developed on a largely positive trajectory. Even Moscow’s decision to leave the OPEC+ agreement and launch a price war with Saudi Arabia in March 2020 did not threaten the gains made by Russian diplomacy in the region. Following a cooling-off period in 2012-2014 caused by the negative reaction of the GCC States to the Russian support of the Assad regime in Syria, the overall rapprochement continued. When explaining the complex mixture of factors that are driving Moscow’s dialogue with the GCC member states regardless of occasional political turbulence they usually refer to the growing intensity of Moscow’s presence in the region, changing dynamics of the U.S. relations with Russia and the GCC, existing tensions between Middle Eastern countries as well as the transformation of GCC foreign policy vision. Yet, the economic factors usually remain underestimated. Consequently, this article will try to prove the importance of the economic factors for the current development of Russia’s relations with the Gulf States. It will also assess the prospects for continued economic cooperation between GCC capitals and Moscow including an analysis of the ability of the sides to bring these relations to a new qualitative level.

Russia-GCC Economic Relations When Quality Matters more than Quantity
Energy Ministers (R-L) from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait give a press conference with OPEC Secretary at the 4th OPEC-Non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 24, 2017. STRINGER / AFP via Getty Images
 

 

 

Introduction

 

Russia’s growing involvement in the Middle East has created a colorful profusion of authors studying the different aspects of its regional presence.1 Their research offers interesting and deep insights into the Russian dialogue with the region, allowing readers to look at these ties from different angles.2 Amongst other topics, their studies inevitably address the issue of Moscow’s relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as this vector of Russia’s diplomacy possesses substantial importance within Moscow’s bigger strategy in the Middle East and clearly affects the overall situation in the region.3 Within this, the focus is mainly on the political aspects of Russia’s interaction with the GCC member states.

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