Thursday, the White House said that Saudi Arabia was helping Russia pay for its war in Ukraine by raising oil prices, which caused a wider gap in relations between the two countries.
Members of Congress have called for retaliation after the OPEC+ group of oil producers, which includes Saudi Arabia and Russia, decided to cut oil output by 2 million barrels per day last week. This decision sparked outrage in Washington.
In a sharply worded statement, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused Saudi Arabia of coercing other oil-producing nations into agreeing to the significant oil cut. (cut oil production)
Kirby stated, “The Saudi Foreign Ministry can try to spin or deflect, but the facts are simple.” He further stated that the kingdom is aware that the decision will “increase Russian revenues and blunt the effectiveness of sanctions” against Moscow.
“There was no market basis to cut production targets,” he stated, claiming that the administration had urged Saudi Arabia to postpone the decision.
According to Kirby’s statement, “Other OPEC nations communicated to us privately that they also disagreed with the Saudi decision, but felt coerced to support Saudi’s direction.”
Following Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry’s statement on Wednesday night, Kirby made remarks that refuted claims that the Saudis were “taking sides” in Russia’s war with Ukraine or that the oil cut was “politically motivated against the United States. “Based purely on economic considerations,” the Saudis said, “the oil decision was made unanimously by OPEC+ members.”
In a rough year at the pump, fuel prices could rise as a result of a significant reduction in the supply of oil.
Tuesday, President Biden told CNN that Saudi Arabia would face “consequences,” but he declined to elaborate on the possible course of action.
According to Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, “This move is clearly going to severely strain an already bad relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and spark a pretty significant backlash across both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C..”
The magnitude of the reduction in OPEC+’s oil production was not the only factor. It was also the timing: less than three months after Biden went to Saudi Arabia to oppose such a cut and just before the midterm elections in the United States, where gas prices could affect voters, it happened.
Jonathan Panikoff, an Atlantic Council expert on Middle East security and a former U.S. intelligence analyst on the region, says, “It feels punitive against the Biden administration.”
Panikoff asserts, “I think it’s difficult to believe it’s otherwise because the Saudis are not naive about the political situation in the United States. “Although it wasn’t the primary motivation, they were unquestionably happy to carry it out.”
Firas Maksad, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., claims that Saudi Arabia has legitimate business reasons for the cut.In the event that a global recession later reduces demand, it is seeking higher fuel prices right now.
Due to global inflation, soaring interest rates, and geopolitical tensions, OPEC, which stands for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, lowered its forecasts for crude oil demand in the upcoming months this week. (cut oil production)
Prior to the OPEC+ meeting on Oct. 5, Maksad claims that American officials engaged in a “full-court press” with counterparts in the Gulf region. He claims that members of the oil cartel were aware of the pressure tactics employed by the United States government.
He explains, “It’s just that the will to acquiesce to U.S. domestic policy, which the administration’s domestic political considerations were not there.”
It was one thing for Saudi Arabia, America’s partner, to lead the effort to reduce production; Russia reaps the benefits of having a seat at the table.The fact that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is sanctioned by the United States, was present at the table when the cuts were announced added salt to the administration’s wounds. Russia and Saudi Arabia jointly chair OPEC+.
Russia’s oil and gas exports, which support the country’s economy, have been targeted by the United States and many of its allies in an effort to reduce them. Reduced oil production will raise the price of a barrel and provide the Kremlin with additional funds to support the war in Ukraine. It is believed that Saudi Arabia’s decision to join Russia in cutting production undermines U.S. efforts to reduce Russia’s oil earnings.
According to Bordoff, “Many in D.C. view the Saudis now as aligning themselves with Russia at a time when Russian troops are killing Ukrainians and reduced Russian energy exports are plunging many parts of the world into an energy crisis.”
Biden is being urged to take tough action against Saudi Arabia by Democrats in Congress. This includes legislation to stop arms sales to the kingdom that was introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna of California and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Additionally, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated, “Freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia.”
However, Panikoff of the Atlantic Council asserts that halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia may not be the best course of action because it could allow China to fill the void. Instead, he asserts, the United States must approach the Saudis “smarter.”
Panikoff claims that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s powerful de facto leader, was the driving force behind the OPEC+ decision.
“I don’t think we’ve fully accepted the idea that he is a different leader than anyone else we’ve ever worked with. Therefore, we will need to form a new relationship,” he states. (cut oil production)
Panikoff explains that the crown prince is a transactional leader, and the United States will need to decide whether it wants to become more transactional or spend time and energy rebuilding its strategic relationship with the kingdom. According to Panikoff, this could impact Saudi Arabia’s security assurances.
He states, “Maybe we don’t sell the more advanced aircraft.” It’s possible that we’ll take out some Patriot batteries and say, “Look, we recognize your security, and we’re not trying to diminish it.”Our security objectives must be balanced as well.
Panikoff thinks it was a mistake for the crown prince to get so close to Putin through the OPEC+ decision.
However, Maksad, who works for the Middle East Institute, asserts that the Gulf region is no longer dependent on the United States and is entitled to explore other options.
He adds, “And so they are building bridges to China, which, by the way, accounts for more than a quarter of the oil exports from Saudi Arabia,” as well as to Russia, which had been kind of expanding its role in the Middle East. Russia is also a major market for Saudi Arabia’s oil. (cut oil production)
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