Russian President Vladimir Putin finally weighed in on the disappearance (and purportedly brutal slaying) of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi during a speech in Sochi on Thursday. His verdict? Russia doesn't have enough information about the incident to justify spoiling their relationship with Saudi Arabia (and, by extension, the rest of OPEC, which has mostly backed Saudi Arabia during the burgeoning diplomatic crisis), according to Reuters.
Putin's take is hardly surprising: Russia's work with OPEC, which created a new Russia-Saudi axis to help manage global oil production and push up prices, has helped revive the Russian economy (while angering President Trump). Of course, Russia would be overjoyed to step in to any void left by the US if lawmakers force a rupture in the US-Saudi relationship, as evidenced by the recent agreement to sell Russian S-400 missiles to the Saudis. Two weeks ago, Putin criticized the US and its sanctions against Russia, Iran and others, saying the US was "making a colossal mistake" and risked undermining the dollar in its role as the global reserve currency.
The IMF now believes Russian GDP will grow by 1.8% next year, up from a previous report published in July, which projected Russia's GDP growth at 1.7% in 2019, with growth supported by stronger domestic demand and higher fuel prices.
Besides, OPEC already has its hands full dealing with the US. As Reuters reported on Wednesday, OPEC has urged its members not to mention the price of oil to avoid provoking US lawmakers from renewing support for the NOPEC bill, which could open OPEC members up to legal action. Given Trump's critical attitude toward the bloc, there's reason to believe that he could break with the precedent of past presidents and consider signing the bill (though, to be sure, that would risk scuttling a reported US plan to undermine Iranian crude imports after sanctions are re-imposed on Nov. 4).
With Russia and Trump both criticizing the rush to judgment that has spurred what has become a full-blown diplomatic crisis, we imagine the US intelligence community or some critics of the president will find a way to condemn this as yet another example of collusion with the Russians. And the fact that Putin defended Trump during his talk, saying Trump "listened to him" and has been keen to restore US-Russia relations, per Business Insider.
"Maybe he acts like that with someone else, but in that case they are to blame. I have a completely normal and professional dialogue with him and of course he listens," Putin said.
Already, the intelligence community is using similar tactics from the runup to the Mueller probe to undermine the administration's position on Saudi Arabia.