Andrei Baklanov: “In Saudi Arabia Ahmat Kadyrov opened the gates of the whole Islamic world for Chechnya”
After the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia experts still cannot agree on the question of how foreign policy in Riyadh will change. Not so long ago, US media falsely reported that Saudi Arabia proposed that Moscow abandon support for the regime of Bashar Assad, promising in return to reduce the level of oil output and contribute to the growth of world prices for "black gold". However, in Moscow and Riyadh the reports of that "deal" were denied. However, the war in Syria has seriously complicated Russian-Saudi relations. Saudi Arabia recognized the Syrian opposition coalition as a legitimate force opposing Assad. Russia, on the other hand, did not.
In general, relations between Moscow and Riyadh in recent decades have not been equal, but they have been multifaceted. One of the important milestones in their development was the visit by the head of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, to Saudi Arabia. At that time, in the early 2000s, Andrei Baklanov served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and was one of the organizers of the visit. Today, Andrei Baklanov - the famous Russian scientist-orientalist, an expert in the field of international relations, is a guest in the Vestnik Kavkaza studio.
- What was the talking point during the conversation between the Chechen delegation and the Saudi Arabian authorities?
- I remember, it was a very important meeting with one of the most experienced politicians in the world - Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. He worked more than 30 years as foreign minister, had seen a lot and wanted to hear what Kadyrov would say. The minister had quite unusual questions that revealed the depth of his interest. Al-Faisal, for example, asked Kadyrov: "You have a very well-educated people, how is it that in the initial stages of changes, the extremists seized the initiative in the country? Why did others take it passively?" And Kadyrov spoke in detail that at first there was hope for transformation, but it turned out that everything is going in a completely different plane, the plane of separatism, cracks between nations. Kadyrov, frankly, said that we underestimated the impact of the hostile, cynical forces that were located far from Chechnya.
I also told him that the forces hostile to our country had several scenarios for a Russian collapse. Initially, priority was given to collapse due to the formation of the Urals Republic. This project was of far more importance than the script associated with Chechnya. But movement there stopped, and then began in Chechnya.
- What were the results of Ahmat Kadirov's negotiations in Saudi Arabia?
- There was definitely a change in the mood among the Saudis. They quite clearly stated for themselves that they should be working with Kadyrov and the new Chechen leadership. Moreover, it is necessary not only to establish relations with Russia, but also in terms of not allowing external forces to start a provocative situation in the country, to drive a wedge between different segments of the population, ethnic or religious.
It was agreed to promote cooperation in the trade and economic spheres. Separately, I would like to highlight the meeting with the Minister of Hajj Madani, who has now become general secretary of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and in his new role is going to come to our country in June. I think that his trip to Chechnya will be organized, where he will meet with [Ramzan Kadyrov] the son of the man whom he took into his residence as Minister of Hajj very warmly.
We had meetings with the ministers of industry, economic trends, healthcare and a number of others. The program was very extensive. Everywhere, Kadyrov was very impressive, not only as a leader of the Chechen Republic and a representative of the Caucasus region, but also as a representative of the Russian government.
His visit - part of the restoration of normal relations, which occurred in the first half of the 2000s, and Kadyrovs’ merit is very high. For Chechnya it was important, because for her, the gates to the whole Islamic world were open. Especially considering that the Organization of Islamic Solidarity is located in Jeddah, in the city where Akhmad Kadyrov met with President of the Islamic Development Bank, and then agreed to develop this line of communication. This was a very versatile format of the visit, and in every direction Kadyrov was well prepared, brilliantly held talks, left a good memory of him, and began to do many things in practical terms.
- Do such visits happen often in Saudi Arabia, or was it a rare case?
- Still, it was a one-time visit, because before that, for a long period of time, there were serious dissensions in our approaches. It was necessary to bring our positions closer. Before this, they took representatives of hostile forces, met them, "attacked" us at international conferences, and here there was a 180-degree turn. It was a breakthrough visit, the effects of which are felt to this day.
- The mechanics that were laid that time, are they still functionating?
- The role of Saudi Arabia is multifaceted. It dominates the Arabian Peninsula. Look at how much building was constructed there, cities renewed, a large income of foreign investment. Of course it mattered what position Saudi Arabia takes. And the visit played a huge role in ensuring that there would be a positive reaction in the Arab world. With the Minister of Hajj we consolidated our priorities. Even when the Holy Land was reconstructed, and because of this the quotas for those who come from abroad decreased, for us, for the Chechen component, an exception was made and our quotas were not reduced. We were given the opportunity to send the same number of pilgrims as before. This is a very important thing – psychological support.