In a rare diplomatic initiative on 6 December 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin embarked on a Middle East tour, commencing with visits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. This marked his first significant venture into the region since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the strategic importance of these two nations to Russia as both crucial trade partners and major contributors to global oil production. President Putin’s last trip to the UAE and Saudi Arabia was in 2019.
Beginning with the UAE, President Putin was greeted with much fanfare, receiving a full cavalry escort and a motorcade upon arrival. The meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was characterized by a warm welcome, highlighting the unique nature of their relations. President Putin acknowledged the UAE’s pivotal role as Russia’s primary trading partner in the Arab world. The discussions between the two leaders covered various aspects, including economic ties, trade relations, and the Israel-Hamas conflict. Despite its robust partnership with the United States, the UAE maintains significant ties with Russia.