Think what you will about Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the man does have a wry sense of humor. Trolling has become one of his trademarks. If Saudi Arabia wants to protect itself, he hinted on Sept. 16, it should make a wise decision and follow Iran and Turkey, who bought Russian air-defense systems. Russia’s S-300 and S-400, he continued “are capable of defending any kind of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia from any kind of attack.” Flanked by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a joint press conference in Ankara, Turkey, following a round of talks on Syria, Putin was poking at another friend of his, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “What should the Saudis buy,” Rouhani asked, laughing, “S-300 or S-400?” Putin’s retort was quick: “Let them choose.”

Russia’s response to the recent drone attack on Saudi Aramco oil facilities speaks volumes about its place in the Middle East. Had the crisis occurred several years ago, few would have cared what Moscow thought about Gulf affairs. But now, thanks to its military intervention in Syria, Russia is seen as a power broker. And if the Russian president had said that Russia is “locked and loaded” to respond to Iran’s apparent aggression in Saudi Arabia last weekend, as U.S. President Donald Trump did, he would probably mean it.

Related Experts: Dimitar Bechev