Saudi Arabia as a Global Security Provider
By Piercamillo Falasca
The Jeddah Summit (5-6 August), as an attempt to mediate theRussia-Ukraine conflict, underscores Saudi Arabia’s growing capabilities as a global security provider. More than 40 countries, including the United States, the European Union, China, India, Brazil, Egypt (among others), were invited in Jeddah to discuss the road to achieve a durable peace in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia's neutrality and willingness to engage diverse stakeholders made it a credible and fair mediator in the international arena, as demonstrated by the presence in Jeddah of the Chinese, which did not attend the previous talks in Copenhagen. This initiative is not the first instance of Saudi Arabia's involvement in mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine. In collaboration with the United Arab Emirates, for instance, the Riyadh played a significant role in facilitating an exchange in the past.
While the Jeddah talks did not produce immediate outcomes for the war, they have boosted Saudi Arabia’s international image and self-awareness—underlining its growing expertise in resolving international conflicts through dialogue and compromise. Saudi Arabia's peacemaking efforts are not confined to traditional state-to-state disputes.
First, the Kingdom’ active engagement in bridging gaps between communities and religions. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been particularly proactive in promoting interfaith dialogue, a crucial element in reducing tensions and fostering mutual understanding in the Middle East and beyond: the Global Interfaith Forum and several multifaith conferences held in Riyadh are prime examples of his commitment to promoting peaceful coexistence among diverse religious communities.
Second, the Kingdom's regional efforts are key. By restoring diplomatic ties with Syria and reopening its mission in Damascus, demonstrate its long-term ambition as leading power in the Middle East and its active role in contributing to Syria's return to the Arab fold, Saudi Arabia is showing that its thinking is strategic. This includes its engagement with Iran—demonstratinga proactive approach to fostering regional stability through dialogue. While China brokered the initial agreement, Saudi Arabia played a pivotal role in the process and has taken great steps to restore stability in the region.
Third, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to economic and social priorities, such as cybersecurity and food security are important. Last June, the so called Global Cybersecurity Forum Institute was established in Riyadh as a response to the rapid development and evolution of cyberattacks, both at domestic and global level. And, in response to the global food supply crisis, Saudi Arabia has take concrete steps to address food security issues in coordination with its regional partners including the launch of a food security action plan with an initial funding of $10 billion (USD).
The key ingredients that have contributed to Saudi Arabia's successful mediation efforts include flexibility, in-depth knowledge of the issues at hand and some leverage over the disputing parties. Saudi Arabia’s balanced approach, coupled with its strong diplomatic ties with various global powers, enables it to navigate complex geopolitical landscapes and build bridges between divergent interests.
As Saudi Arabia continues to strengthen its position as a global security provider, it remains committed to its national interests. Take nuclear energy, for instance. Nuclear energy is an integral part of Visions 2030, as Saudis aim to produce clean energy using their national uranium reserves. In recent months, the US Biden administration has discussed economic and defense cooperation with Riyadh, as well as the possible normalization of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a long-standing goal of US foreign policy. In response, Riyadh made quite clear that it would consider diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States helped Saudi Arabia develop a nuclear industry and, of course, if Israel made significant progresses and concessions for a final solution of the Palestinian issue.
The Jeddah Summit was a milestone in the Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fostering peace and security, while its broader efforts in becoming a critical power and a natural “geopolitical bridge” between the Western countries and “Beijing’s led” bloc. The future looks bright in Riyadh.