Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn't embarked on a lot of international travel since the Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for him back in March, related to the Ukraine war. His most significant trip came in October to Beijing, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Wednesday will see the Russian leader make his first visit to the Middle East in a long time, and since the ICC warrant was issued. By it, he'll seek to demonstrate that Western sanctions have not isolated him and that Russia can still assert its influence in the Middle East and elsewhere.
He's expected to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and President of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan—with the Israel-Hamas war high on the agenda. Of course, neither Gulf leaders have signed the founding ICC treaty, and their meeting with Putin is sure to greatly annoy Washington and European leaders.
Oil market cooperation related to OPEC+ will also be a focus, coming on the heels of the group controversially announcing new voluntary supply cuts last week:
Oil output cuts agreed by OPEC+ will take time to kick in, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, as it confirmed that Putin would visit the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
A Kremlin statement said Putin and crown prince MbS will discuss "issues of bilateral cooperation in trade, economy and investments, as well as various aspects of cooperation in multilateral formats."
Putin's Mideast and Gaza-related diplomacy will continue when he returns home to Moscow, as on Thursday he'll host Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. Iran is seen in the West as a big supporter of Hamas and terror groups throughout the region, and especially Lebanese Hezbollah. Both Hezbollah and Russia have for years cooperated inside Syria, in defense of the Assad government.
The Kremlin has of late presented the US as having fueled the Gaza crisis by its blank check support to Israel. Criticism has focused on Washington's failure to create a Palestinian state, instead opting to merely issue economic "handouts" to the Palestinians while allowing conflict to simmer for years.
Putin alongside China has led global criticism of the soaring civilian death toll on the Gaza Strip. But there's been increasing dissent within Biden's own administration...
A very important interview: please find the time to watch. This was the quote that struck me most:— William Dalrymple (@DalrympleWill) December 5, 2023
"Here we are two months in and already we have seen three times more children killed- 6,000 in Gaza- than in two year of Russia's war against Ukraine" https://t.co/xMhHHjnqrb
Putin has instead said of Russia that "no one could suspect us of playing up to one party" and thus it's able to be a more legitimate mediator for peace.