A bit of history was made this week, when King Salman arrived in Moscow on a four-day visit from October 4-7, 2017. This was the first visit by a Saudi monarch in almost a century of diplomatic relations. Amid the recent years’ flurry of visits by Middle Eastern leaders, the Saudi monarch arguably had been the only one missing. Hence, the heightened anticipation.
Since Saudi Arabia’s formal establishment in 1932, Moscow and Riyadh have been at odds in almost every Middle Eastern dispute. It was only in 1990, two years after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, that the two countries agreed to restore relations. The collapse of the Soviet Union opened new doors, albeit briefly. While Moscow blamed Riyadh for keeping oil prices low and criticized Saudi financial support for the Chechen rebels, Saudi authorities voiced frustration on Russia’s arms sales to regional rivals such as Iran.