Russia-Saudi ties will only be stronger after the pandemic

Arab News, 13.04.2020

Russia and Saudi Arabia have once again led the way for other countries by agreeing a major oil output reduction deal that will stabilize energy markets and help the global economy in the face of the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many other oil-producing countries, including the US, supported this agreement at the meeting of G20 energy ministers chaired by Saudi Arabia. This is a great example of the kind of leadership and partnership needed in these turbulent times, when the pandemic is already having a major impact on the lives of billions of people worldwide.

Without this agreement, oil prices could have plunged to below $10 per barrel due to an unprecedented demand shock. This could have had a devastating effect on global economies.

At this crucial moment, our countries managed to put aside their differences, work together, find a solution and convince others to join this agreement.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have already come a very long way together. Only a few years ago, our relationship was almost nonexistent and we knew very little about each other. However, since the first visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to St. Petersburg and his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2015, our countries have made a giant leap forward and achieved visible results.

The OPEC+ agreement to stabilize oil prices, which has been in place since 2016, was a major contribution to global economic growth by Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Together with our partner, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has invested more than $2.5 billion in over 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 RDIF has supported the breakthrough in our relationship with Saudi Arabia in every key area and has become the main partner for the Kingdom’s companies in Russia. We have also supported bilateral cultural events and cooperation between media groups.

Most importantly, we have developed trust between our nations. The recent developments have shown that this trust and partnership have survived despite the global turbulence and different tactical approaches.

I have personally enjoyed traveling to Saudi Arabia in recent years. I love visiting the ancient site of AlUla, the pristine coast of the Red Sea and the gleaming office buildings in Riyadh. Many Saudis have become my close friends and I deeply regret not being able to see them at the moment because of the pandemic.

We saw the number of Russian tourists in Saudi Arabia grow very quickly last year after the decision to open the Kingdom’s hidden treasures up to international visitors. These achievements should not be forgotten. Instead, we should build on them and look forward.

Trust and continued partnership between our countries can help us successfully combat the pandemic and speed up the return to a normal world with international travel and face-to-face business meetings. Russia and Saudi Arabia can do a lot together to achieve this.

Our doctors, scientists and businessmen can work together to find a vaccine and share available information about clinical research and best practices. For example, we at the RDIF believe that the quickest way to reopen the global economy lies through extensive testing of not only people with symptoms, but also all those who could potentially be infected.

In our view, this is the most effective strategy. Russia and Saudi Arabia can join forces now to implement this strategy. Together with our partners, we have found the best available testing technologies and invested in some of the most accurate, fast and mobile testing systems in the world.

The use of these systems can exponentially increase the number of tests. They are now being rolled out in Russia, the US, the UAE, Austria and many other countries. We are already working with Saudi researchers to bring these testing systems to the Kingdom.

This is further proof that partnerships and a coordinated global response are key to the imminent victory over this pandemic. We believe that this global emergency will bring Russia and Saudi Arabia even closer to each other and make our partnership even stronger.

Kirill Dmitriev is CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.