Since the activization of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s position and activities, the Saudi authorities’ resolve to make significant changes in the Kingdom’s foreign policy and image has been particularly strongly disputed.
Back in 2017, he predicted that the world would eventually transit to alternate energy sources everywhere, rendering gas and oil obsolete. In these conditions, it is critical for Saudi Arabia to have time to “shift ground,” as oil sales account for 80% of its budget. The young monarch set out to keep the country “afloat” with the support of advanced technology, the best health care, infrastructure, and tourism services in the world, entering the Top-10 largest economies and becoming one of the world’s leading powers.
And in this regard, for the last five years the Kingdom began to implement a very futuristic for those times idea of building NEOM – a project of a completely new type of city, which promises to transport people from reality to the distant future. The futuristic city built from scratch will be powered by solar and wind energy, all routine jobs will be transferred to robots, and vehicular traffic will be moved under the ground to ensure favorable environment. The first phase of the NEOM City is scheduled to be finished after 2025; the second phase is linked to the building of a scientific and industrial city in the desert based on cutting-edge technology. Work is extremely active in this direction, and those interested can see for themselves by visiting the construction site.
Yet, the Kingdom’s efforts to transform Saudi Arabia’s image are not restricted to NEOM. Last year, the economy of the Kingdom showed unprecedented growth with an increase in GDP by 8.5%, which was the best indicator among the G20 countries. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest for the last 20 years (9.7%). Saudi Aramco is creating a global logistics center in the Kingdom, which will be the first of its kind for the region and will increase the efficiency of supply chains for companies in the industrial, energy and petrochemical sectors.
Notwithstanding the current US administration’s efforts to undermine Saudi Arabia’s role in international affairs and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership, Riyadh is gradually gaining universal recognition and becoming a more active player in the events of the recent days. This is true despite Washington and London’s active efforts over the past few decades to use Saudi Arabia as a tool to destabilize a vast region that stretches from North Africa to Iran. In particular, by plunging into chaos a number of nations (mainly Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Egypt) that maintained a left-nationalist ideology and preserved peace in a broad region, brought about by the birth of a new mutation of radicalized Black Islam. Also, by involving Riyadh in the tumultuous conflicts in Yemen and Syria, as well as by stirring up a conflict with Iran.
But, the Kingdom’s officials have now had an “epiphany” on who is the real culprit for the troubles and disasters of recent decades in the Middle East. And Riyadh started to shift from acting lopsidedly in accordance with “instructions from Washington” to building a multipolar world alongside Russia, China, and many other nations who have chosen to buck the trend of Washington’s establishment of global hegemony.
This first started to happen “in the oil market,” when HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Minister of Energy, declared at the October 5, 2022 OPEC+ Ministerial Meeting that the group of oil-producing nations would reduce oil production by 2 million barrels per day despite increased pressure from Washington. The United States’ proposed oil price ceiling was then rejected in a statement that followed.
It was also made public that Saudi Arabia’s investment in US government debt had significantly decreased. And although today these figures remain quite high (about $110 billion), nevertheless it is the lowest for the last 7 years.
Saudi Arabia has grown openly interested in joining prestigious international groups like the SCO and the BRICS as part of the diversification of its foreign policy stance. Saudi Arabia plans to end the dollar monopoly in its trade for the first time in 48 years, according to Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who made the announcement at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Despite increased US pressure, Riyadh does not agree to join the coalition against Russia, and is actively developing trade and economic relations with it. Political ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia have recently tended to grow steadily as a result of shared or complementary stances on the majority of global and regional concerns. Last year, under the personal supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, a prisoner exchange operation took place between Russia and Ukraine. It is actively being debated to build a nuclear power plant and to work with third countries on nuclear energy projects.
Relations between Riyadh and Beijing are progressing pretty favorably. When speaking in London at the beginning of March, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud referred to the relationship between the Kingdom and Beijing, which is already the largest trade partner of the Kingdom, as being strong in many other ways. In December the leaders of 14 Arab states greeted the Chinese leader Xi Jinping overtly friendly during his visit to Riyadh. As China increases its diplomatic presence in the Arab world, the restoration of ties between the Saudi Arabia and Iran, mediated by Beijing, has further demonstrated the trustworthiness of relations with the PRC.
Resuming diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia represents not only the first step in putting an end to sectarian and interstate hostility, but also Riyadh’s blatant refusal to adhere to previous “instructions” from Washington, which has been actively forging a coalition against Iran in the Middle East in recent years. Additionally, the agreement made on March 22 by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran to meet, among other things, to prepare for the arrival of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi in Riyadh at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, is a glaring illustration of the failure of US policy towards Riyadh and in the Middle East as a whole. The aforementioned facts also unequivocally show Saudi Arabia’s intention to create the nation of the future in the broadest sense, actively contributing to the creation of a multipolar world.