US President Joe Biden is unhappy with the direction his country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is taking and has made that public. In question, the recent decision of OPEC + – the oil cartel led by Riyadh – to slash its production quotas in order to raise prices. This allows at the same time to fill the coffers of Russia, which is counting on its sales of hydrocarbons to finance the war in Ukraine.
A forced meeting in July
“There will be consequences for what they did (Saudi Arabia, editor’s note)with Russia”, threatened Joe Biden on Tuesday, October 11, during an interview with CNN, without specifying what kind of reprisals would be. Earlier, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters: “In view of recent events and OPEC+ decisions, the President believes that we should reassess the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia. »
The tone of the White House contrasts with the last meeting in July of a constrained, but all-smiling Biden with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) in Jeddah where they were seen exchanging a fist bump, familiar greeting fist to fist. A meeting highly criticized by the American press, which had not failed to remind President Biden that he had sworn, during his campaign, to make the kingdom a “outcast” following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed on the prince’s orders, according to a CIA report.
An Empowering Saudi Arabia
“While MBS’s decision is emblematic of an empowering Saudi Arabia, believes Jean-Marc Huissoud, teacher-researcher at the Grenoble School of Management, the Wahhabi kingdom, despite the historic partnership between Riyadh and Washington (the Quincy pact, Editor’s note), nonetheless decided in 1973 to quadruple the price of oil leading to the first oil shock. » According to him, the Saudi decision “is not an alliance with Russia, even if it temporarily serves Moscow’s interests”, but rather a desire to assert itself as a regional power. Saudi Arabia’s leadership is directly proportional to its income level. “The more money it has, the more it can maintain its networks, satisfy its population and stem internal protest”, continues the researcher.
Reassess the relationship between the two countries
The kingdom has embarked on an ambitious and costly “Saudi Vision 2030” development plan that requires significant revenue. A pragmatic decision, in a way, in order to get the maximum revenue from oil resources as long as they exist to finance the modernization essential to keeping the monarchy in power. An advantage limited in time, because in this context of rising prices, the United States may have every interest in increasing its own production of shale gas, thereby lowering prices.
Riyadh’s emancipation can also be seen as a sign that in Riyadh’s eyes, the time has come to reassess the relationship between the two countries, with the United States marking its withdrawal from the Middle East in favor of the ‘Asia.
In January 2021, the Biden administration had suspended supplies of precision munitions to Riyadh in order to “to reconsider” a decision taken under the Trump presidency, arguing thatarms sales also had to respond “with strategic objectives” from Washington.