Biden says Opec+ production cut ‘shows there are problems’ with US-Saudi relationship

The president says he and his advisers ‘haven’t made up our minds’ on pursuing ‘alternatives’ including easing sanctions on Venezuela

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 06 October 2022 17:45 BST
Biden says Opec+ cut shows 'problems' with US-Saudi relationship
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President Joe Biden on Thursday said the decision by Opec+ to cut oil production was a disappointing sign of problems in the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia after the petroleum cartel sided with Russia by announcing a reduction in pumping ahead of the US midterm elections.

Mr Biden also said he does not regret his recent trip to the kingdom, during which he had a now-infamous fist bump greeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, because his visit there was not solely about convincing the de facto Saudi leader to help bring down oil prices that have spiked during Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“The trip was not essentially not about oil. The trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and rationalization of positions, but it is a disappointment and says that there are problems,” he said while speaking to reporters just before departing the White House for New York.

The president said his administration is “looking at alternatives,” which could include easing sanctions which have prevented US oil companies from accessing Venezuelan oil reserves, but stressed that he and his advisers “haven’t made up our minds yet”.

Mr Biden’s comments come just one day after his top spokesperson said the decision by the oil-producing nations to cut production places them on the side of Moscow against the US and the western alliance that has been aiding Ukraine’s fight against a Russian invasion force.

Speaking at her daily press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the production cut was “short-sighted” at a time when the world’s economies are still “dealing with the continued negative impact of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine”.

“It’s clear that Opec+ is aligning with Russia with today’s announcement,” she added, though she declined to characterise the decision as a hostile act against the US or the west.

US lawmakers have also pilloried the petrostate cartel’s decision to take action that will cause oil prices to rise precipitously with just weeks to go before voters go to the polls for the US midterms.

A pair of Democratic House members, Representatives Sean Casten and Tom Malinowski, said they are introducing legislation to pull the large US troop presence from Saudi Arabia in retaliation for Saudi government’s assent to the production cuts.

“This is a hostile act by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, designed to hurt the United States and our allies and to help Russia, despite President Biden's overtures,” Mr Malinowski said. “I see no reason why we should defend a Saudi dictatorship's oil fields if it is using its control of oil markets to tank our economy and help our enemies”.

The New Jersey Democrat added that the US message to Riyadh should be: "If you want to side with Putin, then ask Putin to defend you. And good luck with that”.

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