King Salman’s ascension a year ago after the death of the late King Abdullah opened a period of optimism that a new generation of policy-makers might re-energize the Kingdom amidst a period of rising economic and security challenges, at home and abroad. The king moved quickly to name a new cabinet which included his youngest son and one of his prominent closest advisors Mohammad bin Salman and formed from younger technocrats and conservatives to chart Riyadh on a new course
New global alignments
In the first year of Salman’s reign, the King has succeeded in streamlining decision-making and projecting an image of confidence and action that appeals to the Saudi public.Andrew Bowen
However, in the wake of the Iran deal and Washington’s shifting global engagement with the region, Riyadh has further invested in its relations with states that don’t always align with the U.S., such as Russia (Prince Mohammad bin Salman visited Sochi this past summer) and China (Beijing imports the majority of its oil from Saudi Arabia). King Salman hosted earlier this week China’s President Xi for his first visit to the Kingdom. Riyadh has deepened as well its relations with key European states, including France (recently concluding a major defense agreement).
This diversification of alliances has been an attempt by the Kingdom to better position itself for the challenges of the 21st century and responds to the diffusion of global power since the end of the Cold War. Saudi Arabia’s participation on the U.N. Human Rights Council and at the Paris Climate talks have been a clear signal that the Riyadh is further positioning itself to be a critical stakeholder beyond the region.