Russia-Saudi ties overhauled in just three years
We remember the first visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then as Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense, to Russia during the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in July 2015 and his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
At that time, the relationship between the world’s two biggest oil producers was almost nonexistent and our nations knew very little about each other. Crown Prince Mohammed, with the blessing of his father King Salman, confronted this reality and was determined to change it.
This determination and focus on results, as well as his unique decision-making intuition, became trademarks of Crown Prince Mohammed’s governance style.
Since that first meeting, our countries have achieved remarkable results and the Saudi-Russian partnership has grown into a major positive factor for the global economy. For the first time in history, Russia and Saudi Arabia see each other as long-term strategic partners and friends. In Crown Prince Mohammed’s own words to Putin four years after their first meeting: “We have mutual trust.”
This trust enabled our countries to become the architects of the historic OPEC+ agreement, which stabilized global oil prices. The agreement, in place since 2016, has been a major contribution by Russia and Saudi Arabia to global economic growth.
As the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), I have seen the remarkable transformation of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed.
The Vision 2030 program, as well as Crown Prince Mohammed’s idea of the “Middle East as the new Europe,” have had a profound impact on every aspect of Saudi life and changed perceptions of the country worldwide.
There were immediately visible changes, such as Saudi women being allowed to drive, the first international sporting events and cultural festivals, as well the first foreign tourists on the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah.
There is also a more profound transformation of the economy through investment and ambitious long-term mega-projects such as Neom, the city of the future. Such projects will help to diversify the economy and drive the development of high-tech industries such as artificial intelligence and cutting-edge modern health care.
Over these years, RDIF has supported the breakthrough in our relationship with Saudi Arabia in every key area and has become the main partner for Saudi companies in Russia. We have also supported bilateral cultural events, bringing the best of Russia’s rich culture to Saudi Arabia and introducing Saudi art to a Russian audience.
Our partnership has grown into a major positive factor for the global economy
Together with our partner, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed, RDIF has invested more than $2.6 billion in more than 30 projects. We are now working with PIF, Saudi Aramco, SABIC and other Saudi partners on 25 new investment projects in sectors such as petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, and technology.
The historic visits by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed to Russia in 2017 and by Putin to Saudi Arabia in 2019 were important milestones in our relationship, underlining that this is a partnership for the long-term.
The global leadership of Russia and Saudi Arabia has also played a key role during the latest crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Falling oil prices represented a major threat to the global economy and to tens of millions of jobs in different countries.
In these circumstances, Russia and Saudi Arabia put their differences aside, brought other countries on board and found the only possible solution, which pulled the global economy back from the brink, saved jobs and gave markets breathing space in the midst of the pandemic. Crown Prince Mohammed and Putin, who stayed in close contact, again played key roles.
Inside the country, the government of superb professionals, led by Crown Prince Mohammed, confronted the fallout from the pandemic with resolve, taking appropriate steps at the right time and pushing forward long-term investment initiatives, which are vital for the economy. On the international scene, the Kingdom is successfully leading the G20 during the most difficult period since the formation of this group of nations.
Looking back at the last three years, we see the truly remarkable magnitude of what has been achieved under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed in such a short period. It will eventually enter the history books as one of the quickest and most profound transformations ever, alongside the reforms of Czar Peter the Great, which made Russia a modern European state in the early 18th century.
Addressing foreign leaders and investors in October 2018 at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom “will be completely different in five years.” We believe that the speed of the reforms means the country is already very different and we wish him continued success with his plans.
- Kirill Dmitriev is CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund