Middle East Nations Diversify their Strategic Dependency

The Middle East security architecture in the post-Cold War era was distinguished by an overwhelming strategic dependency on the United States of the Arab nations and particularly the monarchial regimes in terms of their overall security and the equipping of their Armed Forces with advanced US military hardware. The picture however seems to be undergoing a change in that the Arab monarchial regimes seem to be attempting to diversify their strategic dependency from the United States and enlarge it to include a resurgent Russia.

This new development in the Middle East seems to be a two way process with the Arab nations urge to diversify their strategic dependency coincidentally converging with Russia under the dynamic leadership of former President Putin following a relentless policy of re-establishing Russia's strategic presence in the Middle East.

Indicative of this strategic convergence were the three State visits of President Putin to the Middle East in 2005-2007 where he was welcomed by staunch US allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar , all of them having hosted sizeable US military presence within their boundaries. All of them were military allies of the United States.

Saudi Arabia as the most politically powerful Arab nation and positioned as the leader of the Islamic World seems to have set the process of strategic dependency diversification in motion in the Middle East.

It has been recently confirmed that Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with Russia for an arms supply package worth US $4 billion. The bulk of this order comprises Russia supplying 100 military helicopters and 150 T-99 tanks and hundreds of BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles. Also included are Air Defense Systems and other military equipment. The adding of such potent military hardware in terms of mobility and firepower to the Saudi military machine changes the military balance in the Middle East.

A change more notable than the impact on the military balance is the strategic and political message that this Saudi Arabia-Russia Arms Deal sends out in the region.

First of all is the impact of this Deal on the United States which so far has been a steadfast source of military support for Saudi Arabia. A military Deal like the current one is no ordinary commercial transaction. It is a Deal which is basically 'strategic' in nature and content and carries deep political overtones. Obviously the Saudi Arabia-Russia Arms Deal will ruffle a lot of feathers in the political and military establishment in the United States and especially in the US Senate which has lately been distrustful of Saudi motives on other counts.

The second impact of this deal is on Russia itself. With this Deal the Saudis have facilitated a strong Russian strategic and political presence in the Middle East lost with the end of the Cold War.

The third impact is on the Middle East Region where it sends out two messages. The first being that the Saudi opening to Russia makes it easier for others to follow suit and the second message being more significantly for Iran which is Saudi Arabia's main regional contender. And the message for Iran is that it can no longer count on Russia for unqualified strategic support for its regional predominance initiatives.

However, it is too early to say that this spells the beginning of the end for American strategic predominance in the Middle East. Despite US strategic distractions in Afghanistan and Iraq the United States continues to enjoy unparalleled strategic dominance in the Middle Eat and globally too.


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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