S-400: A symbol of disobedience in the Middle East: Russia's S-400 defense system undermines US authority as ties between America and its Middle East partners get weaker
Russian air defense systems are gradually becoming an independent factor in the Middle East region, even before their actual appearance in the arsenals of local armies. And while the diplomatic quarrel between the United States and Turkey over the S-400 missile defense system is well-represented in the world media, much less attention is paid to the Saudi-Qatari story.
So the essence of the conflict is clear. Taking the example of Ankara, Riyadh and Doha have also repeatedly expressed their willingness to acquire the S-400 to strengthen their own air defense networks. In addition, according to regional media, during the visit of Saudi King Salman to Moscow in the autumn of 2017, a general agreement was reached on the supply of the complexes to Saudi Arabia.
In the modern world, the purchase of air defense and aviation systems is a political problem and proof of loyalty to one side or the other. During the Cold War, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar bought exclusively American or European weapons (of course from the non-socialist part of the European continent). However, the current era is much more complicated and many satellites are trying to play an independent role. Someone is counting on the position of regional leader, while someone else relies on relative independence to defend their own interests.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is not satisfied that neighboring Qatar can acquire the S-400. According to some media reports, it could lead to direct threats from Qatar. In any case, Doha responded to Riyadh’s allegations by stating that it would decide for itself which air defense systems to buy. It is very likely that with such pressure, the Russian anti-aircraft defense system can be bought simply on principle and in order to annoy Qatar’s Saudi neighbors.
How will this trend influence Washington’s relations with its allies in the Middle East?
Apparently, neither Saudi Arabia, Turkey, nor Qatar will ever cease to be Washington’s allies, although they focus on different groups of the American elite. However, the S-400 has strangely turned into a small symbol of disobedience for great leaders. Today Middle East countries can afford it if there is adequate financial capacity and political will.
For the United States, tensions in the Middle East because of the S-400 have become a headache, not a military threat, but a threat to the prestige and command of the U.S. military-industrial complex. If Washington allows the acquisition of S-400 by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the next purchasers could be Egypt or Pakistan.
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