Letter From the Editors: Oct. 2 - 8, 2017

Author: Matthew Larson

Red Carpets, Pink Slips, Black Holes.

Saudi monarchs rarely pay official visits to other countries. When they do venture beyond the comforts of their home soil, it is usually only for good reason. Russia this week rolled out the official red carpet and golden escalator for the first-ever official state visit by a sitting Saudi monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who brought a retinue numbering well over 1,000 on his four-day visit.

Saudi Arabia and Moscow have had a complicated relationship ever since the two countries established diplomatic relations back in 1926, so it was not just the cold that kept Saudi rulers from setting foot on Russian soil for so long. The question is: What exactly enticed Salman to make the visit? The commentators in our first feature offer several theories, ranging from Riyadh’s attempt to diversify its partners to more conspiratorial speculations that the king was seeking to get payment for some special favor that has been or is about to be done for the Kremlin. Whatever the reason for the visit, relations between Riyadh and Moscow are clearly improving, as evidenced by a raft of documents signed by the two countries, including on military-technical cooperation.

The Kremlin is also trying to secure more favorable cooperation from Russian Federation members by replacing governors in problematic regions with administrators who could provide more predictable results - electoral and otherwise. So far, a total of 16 governors have been replaced this year, with more reshuffles likely to come. The overhaul of the governor corps is being billed as an effort to bring in young technocrats, but the terms "young" and "technocrat" are largely misnomers, writes Tatyana Stanovaya. She offers this analysis of the goals of the turnover campaign:

"The purpose of this rotation, especially at the regional level, is to get rid of undesirable politicians. Their successors are picked simply ...

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