Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference.
(photo credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Vladimir Putin is undoubtedly the most gifted leader in the international arena. He is the “go to” man for the Middle East. He is the powerhouse propelling Syria. He is the force leading the attack against ISIS. He is the person who will probably call North Korea into check. When Putin wants to see you – you make the time. When Putin wants to talk to you – you answer the phone. Nyet is not a word he likes to hear. Russia’s influence is growing while the US’s role seems to be waning.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have pre-arranged face-to-face meetings and regularly scheduled phone discussions. Among many world leaders, for his connection to Putin alone, Netanyahu is in an enviable position.
There are two recent meetings, arranged by Putin, that are worth discussing. The first meeting was held in Turkey.
Putin went to Turkey to engage in a series of faceto- faces with Turkish President Erdogan. During the course of those meetings, the Russian and Turkish leaders spent time strategizing about world and local issues. They agreed to create – and then to protect – no-conflict zones in Syria. They confirmed that Russia will help build a gas pipeline in Turkey. Most important of all, they announced that Russia has agreed to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
In a joint Putin / Erdogan press conference, Putin said, “We reconfirm readiness to implement final agreements reached in mid-September in Astana about four de-escalation zones, including the biggest one, in Idlib.”
Calling Erdogan “our friend in Ankara” Putin went on to say, “Despite difficulties we have achieved positive result[s]. These agreements are our common extremely important success.”
This most recent visit underscores how Turkey and Russia are working hard – and working together, to try to keep Syria safe. They also want to make certain that no new states emerge in the region.
The second meeting was held on Putin’s home turf. His guest was King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. This tête-à-tête marks the first time in history that a Saudi Arabian king has paid a visit to Russia. The importance and significance of this trip cannot be understated. The king of Saudi Arabia did not travel to this distant land for fun.
Kings don’t travel the same way you and I travel. Typically, when Salman bin Abdul Aziz travels, he is accompanied by an entourage of between 900 and 1,500 people – including 100 security personnel, various ministers and a bevy of princesses. He brings more than 500 tons of luggage – including two Mercedes S600 limousines and two freestanding elevators. Yes, two freestanding elevators.
In 2015, for example, when the King of Saudi Arabia visited Washington, DC, the royal entourage took over the entire Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown – all 222 rooms. When this king travels, he brings with him all the trappings of the monarchy. The king of Saudi Arabia will sacrifice none of the comforts of home even when hitting the road.
This meeting with Putin holds even more significance than other out-of-town jaunts because it comes at a time during which rumors of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz’s failing heath abound.
Russia and Saudi Arabia are the two largest producers of oil in the world. For years OPEC held no interest for Russia. But over the past six months Russia has been kept informed of the innermost discussions taking place among OPEC members. The conveyor of those discussions is Saudi Arabia. This of course includes reports on oil output limits. With the tacit approval of other OPEC members, Russia has become a pseudo honorary member; some might even say co president. Russia is not actually colluding with the powerful oil cartel – just being kept in the loop and being asked for insight and input.
The Russian president and the Saudi monarch came together to discuss their mutual interest – oil. They agreed to a joint billion-dollar investment in oil, gas, electricity and renewable energy. They discussed ways to bolster the price of oil. The Saudis have led the charge in OPEC to reduce oil production. Iran is on the side of expanding production. Saudi Arabia wants to make sure Russia is on their side and the best way to do that is eyeball-to-eyeball.
Vladimir Putin is expanding Russia’s influence throughout the world. He is conquering the oil industry and showcasing his country’s military prowess. The Russians are outsmarting and marginalizing the United States in almost every global arena. Like it or not – Putin is the new global superhero.
The author is a political commentator. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.
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