A few days ago, the United States banned Russian oil imports even though it represents a small percentage of Russia’s total oil exports. This measure increased the energy crisis.
Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, oil prices witnessed a rise due to high demand as the world is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, in which exporting countries reduced their production. When the war started in Ukraine, oil prices hiked even more. Brent crude oil exceeded $139 a barrel, approaching its record level of $147.50 in 2008.
So, US officials rushed to oil-rich countries in the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa, to secure energy supplies. On top of these countries, of course, was Saudi Arabia. The KSA and the United Arab Emirates are the third-largest producers of crude oil in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
At this point, in particular, Biden’s mismanagement was exposed, because of his previous hostile policies toward these countries. Biden’s attempt to persuade Saudi Arabia and the UAE to increase their oil production to “exercise maximum economic pressure on Russia” met resistance. Since he came in power, the United States has lost its allies in the Gulf and the Middle East.
There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the producers that have spare oil capacity. But they are also a traditional Gulf ally that has had an increasingly strained relationship with the United States since Biden took office due to his hostile threats. Those statements he makes even though he knows well that he can’t carry them out. In fact, those flimsy showy statements that have become a hallmark of the Biden administration always lead to undermining the image of the United States of America globally and provoke ridicule, to the extent that some American channels do not call them statements, but rather Biden’s slips of the tongue.
In 2014, for example, when Biden was the US Vice President, he apologized to Saudi Arabia for statements in which he accused Riyadh, along with Ankara and Abu Dhabi, of “financing and arming terrorism.” Also on November 20, 2019, Joe Biden made fiery statements in the Democratic debate, in which he said: “I will make Saudi Arabia a “pariah state”, “I will not sell it weapons”, and “(the Saudis) will pay the price.” In the same vein, On January 20, 2021, Biden entered the Oval Office for the first time as a president pledging to overturn the policies of his Republican predecessor. Since that day and for weeks, the new president has revealed from time to time vexed speeches towards Riyadh, which enjoyed an exceptional relationship with the former president. Moreover, the matter did not stop there, but the new administration removed the Houthi militia from the list of terrorism, froze arms sales to Saudi Arabia temporarily, and stopped military support for the Arab coalition.
Certainly, by comparison, the Trump administration has been wiser and more successful than the Biden administration, as Saudi Arabia was Trump’s first foreign station. There was also a consensus between Washington and Riyadh on a number of files, the most important of which is the Iranian nuclear file. Concerning the Yemeni file, the United States provided arms deals to the Kingdom, informational and logistical support, and emphasized protecting the kingdom’s stability and standing against any aggression on its lands
Also, in December 2017, former President Donald Trump announced the US National Security Strategy, which gave the Middle East and the Arab Gulf good support, represented in the following: (fighting terrorism, confronting Iranian threats, the peace process, the Syrian crisis, strengthening partnerships and burden sharing).
Biden is completing the same political agenda adopted by the American administration during the era of President Obama, which is manifested in the policy of American withdrawal from the Middle East, heading towards Asia to confront the rise of Chinese strategic influence in it, which threatens The American presence in the Asian continent. However, Biden implements these policies in a very floundering manner that certainly provokes crisis.
The Biden administration ignores the fact that the US-Saudi relations have a specificity that distinguishes them from other international relations, as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a pivotal country in the balance of power in the Middle East and the Arab Gulf region. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also possesses very important strategic privileges, such as its distinguished geostrategic location, its regional Islamic, Arab, and Gulf position, and its economic and oil capabilities.
Over the past six decades, US-Saudi relations have witnessed cases of rapprochement and divergence according to the two parties’ vision of their national interests, and depending on the prevailing conditions in the regional and international environments. Despite that, Saudi-US relations did not witness such tension at a very critical time when Washington is trying to mobilize international support for confrontation against Russia and to contain the rise in oil prices. Thereupon, the whole world is waiting for the conciliatory steps that Biden will take in order to improve relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which may be represented in a close visit to the kingdom to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Biden previously refused to deal with.
Dr. Marwa El-Shinawy: Assistant Prof. at International American University for Specialized Studies (IAUS)