We are on the eve of a visit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States. It can be reasonably articulated that this is perhaps the most significant visit to Washington in recent memory. The earlier visit of President Trump to Riyadh came at a critical juncture in the relationship.
Simply put, a gap had opened in the viewpoints of long held, mutual strategic interests. The visit of President Trump had not only closed these gaps, but the subsequent policy decisions and implemented actions of Washington allowed for not only a reestablishing of mutually ascribed strategic interests, but the possibility of significantly deepening them even further.
The US is a considerably older country than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh has been a partner of the highest order from the very moment that the US emerged as a global superpower. In this aspect, Riyadh is unique among all other strategic partners Washington has had including nearly the entirety of NATO, or for even that matter, the United Kingdom. Since the meeting of King Abdulaziz al-Saud onboard the U.S.S. Quincy and the signing of the initial charter of the United Nations in San Francisco, these two countries have been intertwined in a “Special Relationship” of its own. Outside of the “Five Eyes” coalition of countries, there are very few nation-states that have the quality and depth of relationship that the US and Saudi Arabia enjoy.
It is with a sober assessment of the facts that the geopolitical conditions currently in existence collectively represent one of the most serious challenges both nations have faced in recent memory. Iran, Syria, North Korea, terrorism, proliferation of ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons, exporting of radical and destabilizing entities are just a few of which there are many more prominent examples in existence. Like the 1930’s and the period leading up to World War II, the world once again sees a coalition of revisionist powers who do not hesitate to state their claim to destroying the status quo. World War II in Asia began not at Pearl Harbor, but 10 years earlier in Manchuria.
World War II in Europe began in Poland, but the incubator that preceded its creation, the Spanish Civil War, began well before September 1939. The revisionist powers of the 1930’s where not addressed and identified for who they really were until it was far too late. And this cost the lives of tens of millions. And today there are a similar set of conditions that even when taking into account, the context is strikingly familiar. Saudi Arabia not only wishes to see that these challenges are addressed, but shares an aspirational vision of a peace dividend for all, a prosperous citizenry in both countries, a dynamic global economy, and its role in the 21st century as it is clearly articulated in Vision 2030.
Riyadh in the forefront
As the leader of the Muslim and Arab World, while sitting at the very crossroads from Africa to Central Asia, and from Europe to South Asia and beyond, Riyadh stands on the eve of becoming a global power of the first order. This could not have happened without Washington and its decades long support, even in challenging periods for both. For that we are, and always will be, grateful.
With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman representing the kingdom, it also marks a turning point. It is his first visit to the US as the leading figure of the delegation from Saudi Arabia. His persona represents quite literally one of the youngest nation-states on the planet. It is difficult to see daylight between his aspirations for Saudi Arabia from those Saudi citizens who are aged 40 and under. Or for that matter the older generation, who like anybody anywhere else, wants to see the next in line have it better than they did.
The crown prince, like this younger generation, is globally focused, and prepared to offer a deep well of dynamic talents to reshape the world. Although it is hard to determine the course of future events and the manner in which they will emerge, it seems that the year ahead could be unusually interesting on many fronts. Whatever, and wherever, those challenges may be there is no question about the resolve of Riyadh to stand with Washington, or vice versa, to present solutions that lead to peace, prosperity, and stability. You cannot have national, or regional, security without economic security. Both are intertwined and impossible to separate.
Cooperating on all fronts
Riyadh and Washington both desire economic security for the Middle East and the Muslim world. A Middle East and Arab world proliferated with prosperity instead of radicalism is absolutely essential. Riyadh and Washington also share this viewpoint. However, you cannot have a regional peace, or a widespread regional prosperity, in the face of revisionist powers.
It is hard to lay a foundation for peace, prosperity, and stability without the acknowledgment of the revisionist actors and their efforts. Riyadh and Washington acknowledge them and their efforts. We stand on the cusp of a new, dynamic, prosperous era, while at the same time staring directly into the midst of a dangerous array of characters who wish to deny the majority of the world the chance to see this peace and prosperity. The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia will be one of the most central, and vital, themes on the global stage during this journey.