Last Updated on March 30, 2023
Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have recently hit their lowest point in decades, particularly after US President Biden dubbed Saudi Arabia a “pariah state” and announced that the kingdom would be punished for human rights abuses such as the to account for the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden has also not once officially spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since taking office as US President, because he sees the Saudi de facto ruler as implicated in the gruesome 2018 assassination of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
In the wake of the Ukraine war, rising oil prices and fears of the economic consequences this would have in the West prompted the White House to reassess US foreign policy. However, the Biden administration had already tried in vain to persuade the Saudis to extract and pump more crude oil into the market in order to lower global oil prices.
Last year, Saudi Arabia agreed with the other OPEC countries and nine other non-OPEC countries – including Russia – to only gradually increase oil production.
After the latest package of EU sanctions, the EU’s oil imports from Russia – taking into account the exemption for pipeline deliveries – will fall by around 90 percent by the end of the year. Meanwhile, oil prices are climbing to their highest level in two months and the West is in a real state of emergency. At the same time, reports are circulating that Joe Biden is considering visiting Saudi Arabia as part of his planned trip to the Middle East at the end of June. Reaching a package of deals between the US and Saudi Arabia to increase oil production is crucial to Biden’s potential visit. Biden is now apparently ready to jump over his shadow and “come to terms” with Mohammed bin Salman.
When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Saudi Arabia for bilateral talks on Tuesday, some Western media claimed to know that some members of OPEC were considering excluding Russia from an oil production deal of the expanded OPEC+ oil alliance. “If Russia were excluded, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other OPEC member countries could produce more to meet production targets,” the Wall Street Journal said .
Saudi Arabia has agreed to increase oil production if Russian oil production fails. The country has pledged to increase production if the oil market experiences a supply shortage due to sanctions against Russia, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing “people familiar with the matter”.
Contrary to Western media trying to play up suspected discord within OPEC+ in their own reporting, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov praised the level of cooperation within OPEC+ during his meeting with Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Tuesday.
The alliance with Russia is particularly important for the OPEC countries in order to retain control over prices and guarantee stable income. The Gulf States have so far remained neutral in the Ukraine war – despite many calls from the West to condemn Moscow. Oman’s foreign minister recently said that the Ukraine crisis required only a European solution and that the West should not force the Gulf countries to take sides in the conflict.
In the Ukraine war, the US specifically aims to weaken Russia without killing a US soldier on the battlefield. They could then benefit from the war if the rise in energy prices were curbed. Otherwise, the West’s sanctions against Russia would be the much-cited “a shot in the foot.” At the moment everything seems to depend on whether ultra-conservative Arab states like Saudi Arabia are willing to sharply increase their own oil production, contrary to the agreements made in the OPEC environment, in order to save the West’s so-called “free world” from the crisis.