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Did Moscow’s 'air defense' diplomacy land Saudi deal?

After decades of disappointment, it appears Russia might finally become an arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, after also reaching deals with Iran and Egypt.
A serviceman carries a air-to-ground missile next to Sukhoi Su-25 jet fighters during a drill at the Russian southern Stavropol region, March 12, 2015.  Russia has started military exercises in the country's south, as well as in Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and in Crimea, annexed from Ukraine last year, news agency RIA reported on Thursday, citing Russia's Defence Ministry.  REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko  (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY) - RTR4T425

A profound, nearly civilizational rift and continuously escalating strife in the Middle East are prodding Russia to exercise exceptional flexibility as it seeks to hold on to a foundation of friendly relations with key, if not all, regional players that have taken many decades to build. The nature of these relations is determined by historical memories, as Russia had never been a colonial power in the area, and during the Soviet era invariably supported Arab national liberation movements, helped create industrial potential in many nations in the region and backed the Palestinian cause. In more recent years, however, it has had to work to mitigate the fallout of the conflict in Chechnya in the 1990s, as a number of Middle Eastern states sympathized with the separatists, and of its policy stance regarding the ongoing Syrian conflict. With respect to the latter, regional players have been showing signs of better understanding Russia’s position.

In this context, Moscow is striving to further diversify its system of regional partnerships, relying not only on effective tools of diplomacy, but also on military-technical cooperation, an area where it has a thing or two to offer its partners. In this area, more than anywhere else, economic interests — which have grown particularly strong against the backdrop of international sanctions against Russia — are closely intertwined with political interests.

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