How Would This Be For A “Thank You”?
President Trump sends thousands of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. Looks like the Kingdom’s seriously thinking about expressing their appreciation by buying a missile defense system…from Russia
President Trump’s often explained his decision to go easy on Saudi Arabia both on its murderous campaign in Yemen and its murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the fact they’ve pledged to buy billions in U.S. military equipment. Though those huge contracts have yet to materialize. (And also some real or perceived relationship where he can call up King Salman and get him to keep gas prices down.)
But now the Saudis are apparently considering actually spending some billions on Russian-made equipment.
Specifically the S-400 missile defense system; same as Turkey (a NATO member) just agreed to buy. (And will almost definitely be a topic of conversation when Turkey’s President Erdogan visits Trump at the White House this week.) The U.S. has a perfectly good missile defense system it sells: Lockheed-Martin’s THAAD.
But the Russian system is supposed to be as good, and maybe better depending on what you’re looking for in a missile defense system: because it’s apparently really good at defending against U.S. made missiles. So might actually be the wise purchase if you’re a country that wants to be prepared for any political eventuality or regional configuration. And with the U.S. becoming decidedly less consistent and less trustworthy under Trump, that makes perfect sense.
We have to be a little careful about this story, because Russia is clearly trying to plant and/or promote it in U.S. media, through several channels it’s used before. For whatever reason. Maybe just to prove the competitiveness of its defense system, or assert its superiority. Or to cement an image as modern-day problem solvers in the Middle East. While we are sensitive to that, it doesn’t mean the basic story isn’t true.
And, there’s little or no risk anymore in Putin running to the Saudi royal family after Iran-backed missiles seriously damaged a major oil facility back in September. Who’s gonna challenge him on that? In fact, according to Saudi news organization Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia had agreed “in principle” to buy the Russian made system a couple of years ago. (Just like it’s agreed “in principle” to all the big buys Trump keeps touting.) So Putin’s recent re-offer was also very much a “told you so”…
Would it be a slap in the face to Trump who just recently authorized sending 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia, while bragging he got the Saudis to pick up the bill? Of course it would. (And if the Saudis are footing the whole bill for the U.S. presence there, it would be reasonable for them to not feel so much that they owe America a favor).
But more than that, if a Saudi/Russia missile defense deal in particular goes through, it will drag Trump’s handling of foreign policy down to a level of naïveté and ineptitude the likes of which we have never seen.
Hasn’t happened yet…And a strong U.S. President would never allow it to. We’ll see…