An Unlikely Partnership? Saudi Arabia and Russia’s Nuclear Deal


Saudi Arabia and Russia have not, historically, been the best of friends. In the most important global struggles of our time, they have often found themselves on opposing sides. In recent years, this has been even more clear. Saudi Arabia and Russia support opposite sides in the Syrian Civil War. Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been regional rivals, and Russia recently announced that it would begin to trade oil for goods with Iran. Egypt has also been a contentious issue, with both countries vying to increase their influence. There were even harsh words traded over terrorism in the Caucasus, and even in the Crimea. Amid all of these difficulties, a recent announcement is all the more puzzling.  At a meeting between President Putin, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia and Russia announced a new partnership. The two countries pledged to work together in the field of nuclear energy. Seemingly sweeping away their differences, Saudi Arabia and Russia have now extended the hand of friendship.

The Nuclear Deal

The sudden new-found cooperation and diplomatic niceties between the two states is far from the only confusing part of this saga. Fundamentally, it is even more unusual that, of all projects, Saudi Arabia and Russia choose to collaborate in the nuclear field. Or so it may seem.

Both of the countries are oil-production heavy-weights. Saudi Arabia topped the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with a staggering output of over 11.5 million barrels of crude oil per day. Russia, though not officially part of OPEC, is a large producer in its own right, exceeding 10 million barrels each day. It is accepted by most states that fossil fuels are declining. However, when we think about Saudi Arabia and Russia’s production, this is far from a clear and present danger. Both countries claim to be committed to nuclear energy. But they have no urgent need for it.

Uranium is not only used for nuclear power. Russia is already a state in possession of nuclear weapons. Could it be that Saudi Arabia now seeks a spot at the nuclear table? Read everything about the nuclear deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Uranium is not only used for nuclear power. Russia is already a state in possession of nuclear weapons. Could it be that Saudi Arabia now seeks a spot at the nuclear table?

Saudi Arabia has been concerned over Iranian nuclear plants enriching uranium. Could they have finally decided to do the same? In pursuit of this, Russia may not seem like an obvious ally. However, it may have seemed the only option. Saudi Arabia is a strong ally of the United States, but it is extremely unlikely that they would even consider aiding them in this venture. None of Saudi Arabia’s allies in the region are armed.

Naturally, one cannot jump to conclusions. Perhaps Saudi Arabia simply seeks assistance to produce energy in a cleaner fashion. But of course, when two of the world’s largest oil producers announce that they will cooperate to produce nuclear energy, questions will be raised.

Even if this was the case, it raises more questions still. Russia and Saudi Arabia are still on opposing sides in many conflicts. Iran is a key source of much animosity between the two countries. Why would Russia assist Saudi Arabia in creating weapons which it may use against a Russian ally? Similarly, why would Saudi Arabia collaborate with a country who may reveal techniques to the Syrian government? Neither scenario seems to make any sense, strategically or diplomatically. Could it be that the old enemies have lain down their arms and are willing to work together for the sake of the planet? Perhaps only time will tell.

If you like this article you may be interested in “The Politics of Power: Inside ITER and the International Fusion Energy Project”.


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