US-Saudi ties have endured a series of setbacks in recent years, and the furore over a recently announced oil output reduction by the Arab country is the latest display of tensions between the two allies.
US president, Joe Biden had recently visited Saudi Arabia in the hope of persuading the world’s largest oil producer to increase production and offset petrol costs rising due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Instead, last week, Saudi Arabia and its allied oil-producing nations in the OPEC+ group, including Russia, agreed to a surprise reduction in supply that will push prices up. The undoubted beneficiary is Vladimir Putin.
Seeing the resulting inflation in the United States soaring just weeks ahead of the midterm elections, President Joe Biden stated that it’s time for the US to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi shortly hit back on Wednesday, saying a US request to postpone the decision to cut production “for a month” would have had a negative economic impact. The Saudi statement read,
“The Government of the Kingdom clarified through its continuous consultation with the US Administration that all economic analyses indicate that postponing the OPEC+ decision for a month, according to what has been suggested, would have had negative economic consequences.”
The White House responded Thursday by saying Riyadh was trying to “spin” the matter, in addition to accusing the kingdom of aiding Russia’s revenues and hampering the impact of Western sanctions on Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic coordinator for communications, reiterated that the US is “reevaluating our relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of these actions.” Kirby also said,
“In recent weeks, the Saudis conveyed to us – privately and publicly – their intention to reduce oil production, which they knew would increase Russian revenues and blunt the effectiveness of sanctions. That is the wrong direction. We presented Saudi Arabia with analysis to show that there was no market basis to cut production targets, and that they could easily wait for the next OPEC meeting to see how things developed.”
Riyadh, however, rejected the accusations of making any politically motivated moves and insisted that OPEC took the decision in purely economic context. Yet, Washington still sees this as a snub and a blatant display of siding with Moscow. US president Biden said there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia’s oil production cut – Kirby later emphasised on the president’s statement by saying that,
“As the President has said, we are reevaluating our relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of these actions, and will continue to look for signs about where they stand in combatting Russian aggression.”