The last weeks the Saudi defense industry has been boosted, with specific interest for the implementation of the Vision 2030 pre-requisites such as localization of production, technology transfer and investments. Without any doubt the immense value of the deals announced during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his entourage, to the UK, USA and now France, still will need to materialize and be implemented, but the Saudi red-line that instigates “no more one-way high value transfer of money outside of the Kingdom, but full reciprocity and investments In-Kingdom” has been followed through.
The oil market would have shrugged off five years ago any analysis indicating that OPEC and Russia could be working together. The historic rivalry between the main OPEC producers and the former communist Soviet oil and gas empire was still seen as a unbridgeable fact. US shale and a global financial crisis have changed this paradigm for good. After the emergence of US shale (oil) and the unexpected free-fall of oil prices, the so-called OPEC oil cartel and Moscow have become friends forever it seems. Saudi, Russian and Emirati energy ministers are stating as choir boys that there is an inherent drive in all parties involved to extend the current production cut deal indefinitely. OPEC Secretary-General Barkindo has already given his blessings for a possible long-term deal since months.
The last weeks media has been filled with a new hype, Saudi Arabia’s solar plans, which were presented by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Japanese SoftBank’s CEO Masayoshi Son in the very early hours on 27th of March in New York, USA. The Saudi Crown Prince could be criticized for some moves but he for sure knows how to put plans into the media. MBS’s dreams of weaning of the Kingdom from its addiction of oil is presented in a very smooth and pro-active way, resulting in a new hype every 3-4 weeks. Now that the dust has again settled, and reality is kicking in, the Saudi solar plans still seem to be very aggressive and based on dreams. At least that is the majority of analysis in the media. As always, good news, aka Saudi Arabia really is stepping up its efforts to enter the energy transition era, looking at new sources of energy while addressing environmental issues, is not of interest it seems for Western media.
The global oil market has gone through several dramatic changes the last years. The success of the US shale strategy, combined with a financial crisis and a global glut of oil and petroleum product storage volumes, has pushed international oil power politics to form different alliances. OPEC’s main oil producer Saudi Arabia, which has been for decades the dominant force in oil, has had to reassess its oil market strategy dramatically, resulting in the widely analyzed OPEC and non-OPEC production cut agreement. The perceived weaker hand of the Kingdom, due to US shale oil volumes and exports, and the need for cooperation with former opponent Russia, is currently on the table.
The Saudi military was hit by a major reshuffle after that King Salman issues several Royal Decrees removing leading military and appointing new blood. Analysts have stated that Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman (known as MBS) has been the main driver for this reshuffle, which fired the joint chiefs of staff of the Saudi military this week. As presented by Saudi official sources, the chairman of the joint chiefs, the army commander, air defense chief, and Royal Saudi Air Force leaders have been replaced. Officially no explanation has been given but it is clear that the current move is part of MBS to reimpose his own alliances and support his power position in the country. Some indications have however also been given that there could have been a slight distrust between MBS and the former military elite on the progress of Saudi military operations in Yemen and Syria, both important for MBS, and a lack of support for Saudi Vision 2030. As one analyst indicated, the military elite was not really believers of MBS’s strategy.