If Saudi Arabia’s reported interest in purchasing weapons and platforms from Russia materialises into firm orders, it would represent a major reorientation of the kingdom’s defence procurement policy. However, Riyadh’s requirement for Russian kit is questionable, raising the possibility that its overtures to Moscow are primarily designed to limit arms exports to Iran.

Reports that Riyadh is interested in Russian defence products began to emerge in June-July, when Saudi delegations attended the Army 2015 exhibition at Kubinka in early June and the IMDS-2015 naval show in St Petersburg a month later. Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman also visited Moscow in mid-June to meet President Vladimir Putin.

According to Russian media reports, the Saudis expressed interest in the Iskander-E tactical ballistic missile system, the Tigr frigate (the export variant of the Russian Navy’s Steregushchy class), air defence systems, the Bal-E coastal defence system with Kh-35 anti-ship missiles, and small submarines. […]