The Soviet Union was the first country to recognize the independent Saudi state, the Kingdom of the Hejaz and Nejd and its Dependencies, which was renamed into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in 1932.
The two states established diplomatic relations on February 19, 1926. In 1938, due to the complicated domestic and foreign policy situation in the Soviet Union, as well as due to the change in Saudi Arabia’s foreign political orientation toward the West, the Soviet diplomatic mission in Jeddah was closed and the diplomatic relations were de facto cut off.
In 1990, the two countries agreed on resumption of diplomatic relations and on re-opening of diplomatic missions. The Russian Embassy in Riyadh was opened in May 1991, and the Consulate General in Jeddah has been working since April 1991. The Saudi Embassy opened in Moscow in December 1991.
On December 30, 1991, Saudi Arabia recognized the Russian Federation as successor to the Soviet Union.
The Russian-Saudi relations intensified in the early 2000s.
In September 2003, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who was the king of Saudi Arabia in 2005-2015, visited Moscow.
Putin’s state visit to Riyadh in February 2007, the first visit by a Russian head of state to the Arabian Peninsula in history, gave a strong impetus to further development and strengthening of the Russia-Saudi relations.
The visit resulted in the signing of a number of documents, including the inter-governmental agreement on air transportation, the Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation, the Memorandum on Cooperation between the Russian Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography and the KSA Ministry of Culture and Information, an agreement on cooperation between the RIA Novosti Russian Information Agency and the Saudi Press Agency.
On November 21-23, 2007, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Aviation and Inspector General Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited Russia at the invitation of Putin. During the visit, the crown prince met with Putin, members of the Russian government and other officials.
The political dialogue between Russian and Saudi leadership has intensified over past years.
On November 16, 2015, President Vladimir Putin met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya (Turkey). The two leaders discussed bilateral relations and the Syrian conflict settlement.
On September 4, 2016, President Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China’s Hangzhou.
The leaders of the two countries speak by phone on a regular basis to discuss key aspects of bilateral relations and items on the regional agenda. In 2017, they held four telephone conversations.
On October 4-8, 2017, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud paid the first ever visit of a reigning Saudi monarch to Russia. The two leaders held talks on October 5. As a result of the visit, a package of documents was signed, in particular, the agreement on cooperation in the exploration and peaceful use of outer space, the roadmap for trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation, the cooperation program in the field of culture, agriculture cooperation agreement and the program for the implementation of cooperation on peaceful use of atomic energy.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has visited Russia four times since 2015: in June 2015, October 2015, May 2017 and June 2018.
The Russian and Saudi Arabian foreign ministries also maintain an intensive dialogue. The two ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Adel al-Jubeir, exchange working visits, meet on the sidelines of various international forums, and regularly speak by telephone. Lavrov visited Saudi Arabia in September 2017, where he was received by King Salman and held talks with the Saudi top diplomat.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is the special presidential representative for the Middle East and Africa, has also visited Saudi Arabia several times.
On April 15-17, 2017, Russian Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko visited Saudi Arabia to meet with the country’s leadership and members of the Consultative Assembly.
Contacts between Russian regions and Saudi Arabia also take place. The kingdom has been visited by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov (most recently, in February 2017), Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov and former head of Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov. In November 2016, Head of Ingushetia Yunus-bek Yevkurov paid a visit to Saudi Arabia. During these visits, the heads of the republics met with the king and other members of the Saudi leadership.
Trade and Economy
According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, in 2017 foreign trade between Russia and Saudi Arabia increased by 86 percent compared to 2016 and totaled $915.2 million, including Russian exports of $770.7 million and Russian imports of $144.5 million.
In January-September 2018, the bilateral turnover amounted to $771.6 million Russian exports of $552.9 million and Russian imports of $218.6 million.
Russian exports to Saudi Arabia in 2016 included the following: food and agricultural commodities (70.29 percent), chemical products (13.08 percent), wood and pulp (7.35 percent), metals and metal products (6.16 percent), machinery, equipment and vehicles (1.45 percent), mineral products (1.22 percent).
Russian imports in 2016 included chemical products (95.71 percent), textile and shoes (2.70 percent), machinery, equipment and vehicles (0.81 percent), wood and pulp (0.22 percent).
The most rapidly developing areas in the two countries’ trade and economic cooperation are investment, oil and gas and agriculture.
Russia’s LUKoil and Stroytransgaz operate in the Saudi market.
In 2004, LUKoil signed a contract for exploration and development of Saudi hydrocarbon deposits for a 40-year term, and established Luksar, a joint venture with Saudi Arabia Energy Ltd. Stroytransgaz started a consortium with the Saudi Oger construction company and participates in the construction of a water transport system in the southwestern provinces of the kingdom.
Other Russian companies present in Saudi Arabia include Kamaz, Russian Railways, Volzhsky Diesel, Kaspersky Lab, Zakneftegazstroy-Prometey, Promstroi Group, EnergoStroy, and others.
Joint Intergovernmental Commission
In October 2002, the Russia Saudi Joint Intergovernmental Commission Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technology Cooperation was created. The commission has come together four times, including a meeting in Moscow on November 24-26, 2015, that served as the basis for a Russian-Saudi investment forum. The fifth session of the forum took place October and November 2017 in Riyadh.
The two countries work together in space. Since 2000, Russian carrier rockets have launched approximately 20 Saudi telecommunications and Earth remote sensing satellites.
In 2017, the sides reached an arrangements on delivery of Russia's S-400 air defense system to Riyadh.
Russia and Saudi Arabia have strong cultural links, including between Muslim organizations. In 2002, Russia established its hajj mission (represents the Council for Hajj at the Government Commission for Issues of Religious Organizations) to provide assistance to Russian pilgrims.
In 2016, according to Saudi Ambassador to Russia Abdulrahman bin Ibrahim Al Rassi, 16,000 Russian Muslims visited Mecca, which is 15 percent more than in 2015. This figure does not include the thousands of pilgrims that arrive from Russian regions for Umrah, or the "minor pilgrimage."
Under the memorandum of understanding signed in September 2003, the Russian Academy of Sciences established direct links with King Abdulaziz University, the largest science and technology center in Saudi Arabia.
In October 2017 and June 2018, days of Saudi culture were organized in Moscow.