Date: 19 November 2022 Author: Jack Kakasenko, supervisor: Liliana Śmiech

Biden Warns of ‘Consequences’ for Saudi Arabia Following Cuts in Oil Production

In a recent interview with CNN News, President Biden warned of consequences for Saudi Arabia after the kingdom sided with Russian president Vladimir Putin in reducing OPEC+ oil production.

SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons (The White House) , P20220209AS-0556-1

In his interview, the U.S. president remarked that “There’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia.”[1] This signals an apparent reversal in Washington’s strategic relationship with the kingdom, following attempts at closer relations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In 2017, former President Donald Trump signed a weapons sales agreement including $110 billion of immediate sales and $350 billion of additional sales over the next 10 years.[2] Riyadh’s recent decision to reduce oil production puts the relationship with Washington under increasing strain, by driving the price of fuel even higher for Americans. Increasing fuel prices will be felt not only at the pumps, but will likely further inflate prices across the economy.

As deteriorating relations with Saudi Arabia become a reality, the United States seeks to reevaluate the strategic cooperation between the two nations. Recently, National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, said that Biden is ready to “review the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia and take a look to see if that relationship is where it needs to be and that it is serving our national security interests.” With tenser relations, the U.S. could seek to drastically reduce weapon sales to the kingdom. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, threatened to halt sales of defense systems to Saudi Arabia. Senator Menendez remarked that there “was simply no room to play both sides of this conflict.”[3]  This could lead to potential repercussions for Saudi Arabia, as American defense systems play a major role in Saudi defense against neighboring aggressive states, such as Iran. For the United States, the lack of cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the containment of aggressive states creates obstacles for American ambitions in the region.

In recent days, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Ro Khanna introduced new legislation that would halt all American weapons sales to Saudi Arabia for a period of one year. These measures would also apply to spare parts, support services, and logistics services.[4] President Biden himself has been reluctant to announce exactly what measures will be taken against Saudi Arabia, saying “I’m not going to get into what I’d consider and what I have in mind. But there will be – there will be consequences.”[5]

During his term, Biden has had various views on how to manage the delicate relationship between the U.S. and Middle Eastern states. At the beginning of his term, he pledged to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights violations, including the murder of journalist Omar Khashoggi.[6] Despite this, half way through his term, Biden visited Saudi Arabia, where he held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.[7]

Saudi Arabia’s move to curb oil production creates strategic issues for the United States. Domestically, the cut in oil production could cause a spike in fuel prices in the United States. Internationally, however, the increase in oil price could further boost the Russian economy during their invasion of Ukraine. With the United States pushing a price cap of Russian oil, this could set back Washington’s goal of isolating Russia financially.

The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is very delicate. At times, the United States seems open to cooperation with the kingdom for their mutual benefit. Although the United States has historically had objections to human rights violations and Saudi manipulation of OPEC+. Nonetheless, the relationship between these two nations is critical, as Russian gas is progressively being phased out of western economies. Saudi Arabia’s further collaboration with Russia, on the other hand, could undermine these efforts.

[1] Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Julian Borger “Saudi Arabia will face ‘consequences’, says Biden, amid anger at cuts in oil output” The Guardian (October 12, 2022) Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/11/biden-signals-rethink-over-saudi-ties-amid-anger-at-cuts-in-oil-output Accessed October, 2022

[2] Javier E. David “US-Saudi Arabia seal weapons deal worth nearly $110 billion immediately, $350 billion over 10 years” CNBC News (May 20, 2017) Available at:https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/20/us-saudi-arabia-seal-weapons-deal-worth-nearly-110-billion-as-trump-begins-visit.html Accessed October, 2022

[3] Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Julian Borger “Saudi Arabia will face ‘consequences’, says Biden, amid anger at cuts in oil output” The Guardian (October 12, 2022) Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/11/biden-signals-rethink-over-saudi-ties-amid-anger-at-cuts-in-oil-output Accessed October, 2022

[4] Bill No. DAV22K84 L4F, United States’ Senate Office of the Legislative Council, 117th Congress 2nd Session, Available at: https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/101122saudiarabiaarmshaltbilltext.pdf

[5] NEWS WIRES “Biden says Saudi Arabia will face ‘consequences’ for OPEC+ oil production cut.” France24 (October 12, 2022) Available at:https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20221012-biden-says-saudi-arabia-will-face-consequences-for-its-oil-production-cut Accessed October, 2022

[6] Alex Emmons, Aida Chavez, Akela Lacy “Joe Biden, In Departure From Obama Policy, Says He Would Make Saudi Arabia A ‘Pariah’” The Intercept (November 21, 2019) Available at:https://theintercept.com/2019/11/21/democratic-debate-joe-biden-saudi-arabia/ Accessed October, 2022

[7] Raffi Berg “Saudi Arabia: Biden meets crown prince amidst criticism” BBC News (July 15, 2022) Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-62173934 Accessed October, 2022


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