There's a strong temptation for Western commentators, especially U.S. ones, to portray MbS as a reformist trying to bring the House of Saud into the modern world and Putin as a retrograde dictator taking Russia into the past. But the only reason this temptation to differentiate exists is that Saudi Arabia is a traditional U.S. ally, and the enemy of an old enemy -- Iran. In reality, there are far more similarities than differences between the world's two most important oil dictatorships. Their interests align on their most important market. Together, they've talked up oil prices to a level that allows them to maintain spending on defense and mega-projects. Their geopolitical interests don't align today, but that won't stand in the way of their natural mutual attraction.
Absolutism, dictatorship and monarchy do indeed share many similar characteristics. The natural recourse for someone seeking to solidify a potentially tenuous grip on power is to pump up historic grievances, towards a domestic or foreign enemy, and to pursue a bread and circuses domestic policy which boosts morale if not necessarily living standards. In that context Russia and Saudi Arabia are quite similar.
Against that background the West, represented primarily by NATO members needs to come up with a more effective communication of what is in fact is willing to stand for. The reality is that globalization and the end of the Cold War has not resulted in greater democratization but rather that China and Russia have evolved technologically but not politically. Meanwhile our middle classes have been hollowed out with little or no plan for revitalization.
Concurrently, the revolution in the energy complex, initiated by unconventional oil and gas, and perpetuated by evolving renewable and storage solutions means that another seismic shift in geopolitics is now underway which is going to affect the geopolitical make-up of the global economy for years to come. The adage long perpetuated at this Service “Governance is Everything” has seldom been more vital.
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