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09 August 2013

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William R. Cumming

Agree!

asubbotin

I wonder if the other, unspoken, arm of that offer was a threat of Salafist terror attacks in Russia. A number of Chechens are fighting in Syria, rerouting them to Russia should not be difficult.

David Habakkuk

TTG,

A relevant question then becomes how significant the religious dimension in current Russian policy is. From an interesting piece published on 26 July by Dmitri Trenin, a former Soviet officer who is now director of the Carnegie Moscow Center:

‘Last Thursday in the Kremlin, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hosted senior leaders of all 15 national Christian Orthodox Churches. The occasion was the 1,025th anniversary of the baptism of Rus. The Russian president hailed the adoption of Christianity as the civilizational choice of Russia, and called it the spiritual pillar of the Russian people.

‘That the Kremlin’s domestic policy has moved toward traditional values is a salient feature of Putin’s current presidency. Profession of universal values or common European norms and principles has stopped. In lieu of the Council of Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate is now the principal norm-setter. Other traditional religions: Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are also welcome as partners of the State.

‘The state-supported comeback of traditional religious faith in Russia has a foreign policy dimension. Both Putin and Patriarch Kirill spoke about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, in particular in Syria. According to the head of the Russian Church, the very presence of Christianity in the Middle East, its historical birthplace, is in danger. Should “physical destruction” or “pushing out” of Christianity happen, it will be a “civilizational catastrophe.”’

(See http://carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook/?fa=52501 )

rick

Bribe the Russians? They have money...I cannot see them reacting to the offer in such a way as to leave the Saudis "elated", despite what the Lebanese source says.

turcopolier

TTG

This is typical Saudi Arabia. All money, and nothing much else. As I have written, the have long term plans for all of the Levant. I wonder what they would do with all that modern equipment. They don't have enough people in the population to adequately man their ground forces now. Do they plan to replace American equipment with Russian? pl

Fred

They have already been attacked that way, which is amongst the reasons why the Russians opposed replacing Assad with a Salafist government. When has paying extortion to such groups ever proved to be in the long term interests of one's people?

confusedponderer

The Saudis probably have enough money to just buy it and then let it rust in the desert. 15 billion? I'd like to have that. To the Saudis, that's not exactly small change, but nothing that can be said to cost them dearly.

What would put me off about that offer is the way it is being made, even more so now that it is public. The Russians would be idiots to accept, since it would show they are for sale, cheaply.

Given that, are the Saudis so coarse as to not see that? I always thought them patient, subtle and sophisticated players, judging by the way they play the US, but then, perhaps Bibi is just being realistic when he says the US is easily played.

Abu Sinan

They dont call him "Mr 20%" for nothing. Amoungst the reswha (bribe) mad princes in the Saudi government, he is notorious.

My ex's family was friendly with his family here in DC for years. The stories of graft, corruption and other vice are legion. This is a given.

Question is....will the Russians go for it, and at this point, would it matter greatly considering the facts on the ground as they stand?

seydlitz89

Col. Lang & TTG-

Gentlemen, could it be that the Saudis are panicking due to the momentum of the Syrian war having shifted to Assad? Making such a blatant offer is typical of a merchant's mentality which is what the Saudis are essentially as Col. Lang has mentioned before. But they couldn't actually expect the Russians to fold so easily. Is it perhaps more a signal to Assad that his Russian support isn't as certain as he may think?

Fred

It sounds like the plot of a bad ‘50s noir film. They could at least have taken the money and then reneged on the 'deal'. Putin certainly has a few people he could afford to fire. $15 Billion would settle the selected fall-guy’s costs with plenty to spare.

Matthew

CD: Besides the religious issue that DH discussed above, imagine the damage the Russians would suffer in prestige--and seriousness--if they accepted this offer. Saudi Arabia is asking Russia to "sell" its ally. Would Saudi ever dare ask the US to "sell" Israel? I doubt it.

Furthermore, the Saudis must hope the Russians have forgotten that Saudi money contributed to Russia's defeat/strategic withdrawal/mission accomplished in Afghanistan.

b

That the offer has been made public means that Russia has rejected it.

Bander was really stupid to even try bribing Putin.

The Saudis could again produce as much of their oil as possible and shredder oil prices which would severely hurt Russia's oil exports. But since the protest wave in the Middle East Saudi Arabia had to increase its payments to its population and can no longer afford any longer period of lower oil prices.

It has therefor nothing left with which it could influence Russia.

FB Ali

Bandar was Saudi ambassador in Washington for 22 years. Before that he would have spent some years studying in the US.

That's where he must have lost the ability to be "patient, subtle and sophisticated".

FB Ali

TTG,

I share your sentiments re the Saudis, especially the royals. In my view they are the scum of the earth.

eakens

We're already doing as we are slowly becoming a huge exporter of oil. The culmination of massive Saudi and US supplies and an economic slowdown will torpedo their revenues.

David Habakkuk

F.B. Ali

I have long suspected that the history of the relations between the Saudis and a significant section of the British elite is one of a catastropic process of mutual corruption.

David Habakkuk

seydlitz89,

I do not think that Russian support for Assad ever has been ‘certain’. Another recent piece by Dmitri Trenin, which, interestingly, appeared in the Tablet, describes what has I think been the consistent Russian position:

‘Last May, Putin appeared ready to deal with the United States on bringing the war in Syria to a close. For the Russian leader, however, it was never acceptable to be simply a U.S. accomplice in easing Assad out of power. His own terms of possible engagement were clear: Moscow and Washington act jointly and as equals; they bring the Syrian government and the opposition groups to the peace conference and keep them there; they let the Syrians decide the future of their country and the composition of its transitional government; they ratify the agreement reached and oversee its implementation. The United States looked at Putin’s terms and did not much like them. Putin, for his part, was not buying what the United States had to offer. Not surprisingly, Geneva 2 is not going to happen, at least not soon.’

(See http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/139059/putin-obama-russia )

It has never been clear to me, as an ignoramus about Syria and the Middle East in general, whether there was any possible basis for a negotiated agreement between the different parties in the civil war, even had Russia and the United States agreed to work in tandem. However, insofar as Putin is committed to Assad, this seems to be not so much through any positive enthusiasm as because Western policy has given him no option.

confusedponderer

b,
"That the offer has been made public means that Russia has rejected it."

Doh. I hadn't thought of it that way, and it makes sense.

Matthew

FB Ali: "scum"?

Unlike the Saudi royals, scum actually has utility. See http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/pond-scum-gets-top-billing-future-fuel-source-848887

Matthew

Eakins: what is more important (a) to export oil; or (b) protect the petro-dollar? The two are not the same thing.

Babak Makkinejad

There never was; the diplomacy was meant to facilitate the crushing of one side by the other.

This is worse than Spanish Civil War - communities have been forced to chose sides on basis of physical probability of survival.

turcopolier

FB Ali

Having been Defatt in SA and later forced to associate with Bandar, I have the lowest possible opinion of them. Their standard technique is to reduce one and all to "zilim" (flunkies) with money. in particular the way they have treated the Pakistan military is shameful. pl

David Habakkuk

Matthew,

'Scum' is quite a difficult term.

In the last election for the mayor of London, the Tory candidate was Boris Johnson and the Labour candidate Ken Livingstone.

As an Oxford student, Johnson was a member of the Bullingdon Club -- like David Cameron and George Osborne. They made a habit of getting blind drunk, trashing places, and then flashing their parents' money around. In their view, apparently, money could make everything good.

Not quite John Henry Newman's idea of a gentleman.

As for Livingstone, he came out of the 'New Left' in the Eighties Labour Party. Specifically, he was a product of 'Red Ted' Knight's Lambeth Council. And that was seriously corrupt.

So one might say the election for mayor pitted the 'scum' of the British political class versus the 'dregs'.

Matthew

Thanks, DH. But I think we can agree that after you scraped off the scum, and drained the dregs, anything left over still has more utility than a Saudi royal.

CK

Israel is currently an ally of the Sauds ( against Syria, Iran, Iraq and the rest of the Shia sectarians; so they are not a currently available sellout option.
Maybe after Iran is neutralized, Syria is "democratized", and Hezbulah beheaded then it will be time to try to put a wedge between the Saud's current friends.

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