The US president suggests taking action soon as advisers announce the White House is reassessing its relationship with the kingdom.
Joe Biden, the President of the United States, has warned Saudi Arabia there will be “consequences” after a global cartel of oil-producing countries led by the Kingdom and Russia announced they would cut oil production despite Washington’s objections.
His comments on Tuesday come a day after influential Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the US must immediately freeze any cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales.
“There will be some consequences for what they did to Russia,” Biden said in an interview with CNN.
“I’m not going to go into what I would consider and what I have in mind. But there will be consequences.”
Last week, the OPEC+ group announced it would cut oil production targets by 2 million barrels a day, despite pressure from the US.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, said the decision was aimed at stabilizing the oil market – not raising prices – amid interest rate hikes by central banks and the prospect of a global recession.
But critics have argued that the production restrictions are raising oil prices around the world, giving Russia more revenue to continue funding its war in Ukraine, despite Western sanctions on its economy. The move was also seen as a diplomatic slap in the face for the Biden administration as it prepares for the critical midterm elections next November.
“This appears to be really benefiting political opponents of the president in the US,” said Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington. “High energy prices are not good for the president politically,” she added. “The other reason the White House isn’t happy about this is the fact that this is really seen as alignment with Russia.”
But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Tuesday defended the move, saying it was “purely economic and was unanimously approved by the government [organisation’s] Member States”.
“OPEC+ members acted responsibly and made the right decision,” he told Al-Arabiya TV channel.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also defended the planned cuts on Tuesday, saying “our decisions…are not against anyone”.
“Our actions are aimed at ensuring stability in global energy markets so that both consumers of energy resources and those involved in production and supplies have calm, stability and confidence to match supply and demand” , Putin added while hosting United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Saint Petersburg.
Additionally, the OPEC+ group’s move was widely seen as a diplomatic slap in the face, as Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia in July and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite pledging to turn the kingdom into an international “pariah” following the 2018 assassination. to make the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
US intelligence says the crown prince authorized an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. The prince has denied ordering the murder but acknowledged it took place “under my supervision”. Biden said in July he had told the prince he held him responsible.
Commenting on his trip to Saudi Arabia, Biden told CNN he “didn’t go there for oil.”
“I went there to make sure we didn’t leave the Middle East,” he said.
Separately, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration was “reviewing” its relationship with Saudi Arabia in consultation with lawmakers in Washington and allies abroad.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Biden will work with Congress “to consider what that relationship should look like going forward.”
“And I think he’ll be ready to have those talks right away. I don’t think this is something that has to or should wait, frankly, much longer,” Kirby added.
The Saudi embassy in Washington said in a statement Tuesday the relationship is “strategic” and has “advanced the security and stability of the Middle East.”