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Vladimir Putin & Mohammed bin Salman © Kremlin

The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Affinity” Between Putin and MBS

How could there be affinity between Mohammed bin Salman and Vladimir Putin?

What drives international relations? Everyone knows the answer to that. It’s the same thing that wins elections: “the economy, stupid!” But what seals international relationships? That’s a different question and one that obliges us to consider this quote from Helima Croft at RBC Capital Markets in a Reuters article on the evolution of the international oil market: “Now this Russia-Saudi alliance appears to be thicker than oil and seems to be driven by the personal affinity between Putin and MBS [Mohammed bin Salman].”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Affinity:

A relationship that is harmoniously in tune, which leads to two people acting or thinking in a similar way and thereby constituting a serious threat to those who do not share that affinity

Contextual note

In the US, the notion of affinity in business or politics is very tenuous. People often consider it “messy,” leading to vulnerability. US culture prefers transactional logic, where relationships are built on the identification and valuation of interests.

In the current geopolitical chess game, over recent months we have seen emerge a major alliance between Donald Trump’s United States, Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. More precisely the media have insisted that it is founded on “a close personal relationship” between Jared Kushner and MBS.

At the same time, Russia and Iran are deeply involved in defending Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria. For the same media, this defines those three nations as the direct enemy of the American-Saudi-Israeli alliance. How then could there be affinity between MBS and Vladimir Putin?

It all depends on how you define affinity. The Wahhabi Crown Prince’s friendship with Trump’s Zionist son-in-law and Netanyahu makes sense only to the extent that all three are obsessed by the threat of Iran. Working with Zionists can only be a tactical commitment for MBS. Although it’s as far as one can get from a democracy, however cynical MBS may prove to be, he can’t betray the culture of his people. For the moment, the Saudis are tied to the US militarily and economically, but there are forces at play that, as the commentator says, “are thicker than oil.”

Historical note

To understand the stakes of the changes in affinity now taking place, we need some historical perspective. The journal Antimedia cites Adam Smith, Wall Street insider and TV personality, on the state of play in the global economy, where the dollar has dominated for the past 70 years. In his 1989 book, The Roaring ‘80s, Smith wrote: “First, we have a large reservoir of moral credit from our position as a world military leader and from our past as an investor and lender. Second, the dollar is the key currency. Dollars are what the world banks in, insures in, denominates.”

That was a given during the heyday of the Pax Americana, which many observers have pointed out is in a state of rapid decomposition. Alistair Crooke highlighted the deepest trend in an article in The Huffington Post/l “A profound transformation of the global monetary system is underway. It is being driven by a perfect storm: the need for Russia and Iran to escape Western sanctions.”

In other words, sanctions, the very means used to punish nations that fail to conform to the rules of the Pax Americana, have provided the pretext for innovation in global finance aimed at removing the shackles of sanctions. The aim is to permit “non-dollar trading.” Cryptocurrency provides one opportunity, which Venezuela is exploiting after launching the Petro. China is also aiming at introducing gold-backed futures to circumvent the US dollar.

Many have noted — though US media have carefully avoided the subject — that Western nations mounted the 2011 war on Libya leading to the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi because of his intention to create a gold-backed currency for the African continent.

Some say the US is preparing to invade Venezuela, and of course Iran is in the triumvirate’s sights (Trump, MBS, Netanyahu), but Russia and China may be a bit too big to swallow.

MBS will be in control of Saudi Arabia for his lifetime, unless a revolution occurs. Vladimir Putin is pretty much the new tsar of Russia. This may be the secret of their affinity, in contrast to the Trump-Kushner family’s reign that is likely to last another two and a half years, but may end even sooner. If, through affinity and opportunism, MBS skirts around the dollar as the unique currency of the oil market, the central pillar of the Pax Americana will no longer support the structure and, like Jericho, the walls may come tumbling down.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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