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Tags: kingdom | opec

Biden's Hostility Strengthens Saudi-China Relations

Biden's Hostility Strengthens Saudi-China Relations

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit (GCC+3) at a hotel in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 16, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images) 

Fred Fleitz By Wednesday, 11 January 2023 05:43 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

On Jan. 5, 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden administration officials took significant steps over the past few months to repair U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.

This included dropping a threat by President Biden last October to punish its kingdom and "reassess" the U.S.-Saudi relationship, after the Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel voted to lower oil production in the run-up to the U.S. midterm election.

U.S.-Saudi relations were also bolstered by closer military and intelligence cooperation against Iran. In November, the two countries cooperated to defend Saudi Arabia in response to intelligence reports of an imminent attack.

The Biden administration also continues to work with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other Mideast states to negotiate an air defense pact and cooperation at sea to counter threats from Iran.

Although it is good news that the Biden administration has reversed its hostility toward one of America’s most important allies, the U.S.-Saudi relationship is still fragile.

Moreover, the recent strengthening of Saudi relations with Russia and China directly results from the Biden administration’s antipathy toward the Saudis.

America’s relations with Saudi Arabia sunk to the lowest level in many years during the Biden administration due to a series of critical statements and policies about the country and its leadership by Team Biden.

This began during the 2020 presidential campaign when Mr. Biden referred to Saudi Arabia as a pariah.

Biden officials acted on this criticism in the administration’s early days when they downgraded relations with Saudi Arabia, snubbed de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and revoked the Trump administration’s terrorist designation of the Yemeni Houthi rebels, an Iranian terrorist proxy.

There are reports that the Crown Prince took the criticism from President Biden and his senior officials personally.

On Oct. 24, 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported that he mocked President Biden in private, "made fun of his mental acuity," and told advisers "he hasn’t been impressed with Mr. Biden since his days as vice president."

Moreover, as a petro-state, Saudi officials view President Biden’s efforts to curtail and eventually end the use of hydrocarbon fuels with his green agenda as a threat to their long-term economic prospects.

Saudi leaders also have slammed President Biden for using the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve to lower oil prices which they believe amounted to flooding the market with oil to manipulate prices.

After these strategic miscalculations, it wasn’t a surprise when Saudi leaders were cool to pleas by President Biden and his senior officials over the last year to increase oil production after U.S. gasoline prices surged and energy-fueled inflation threatened economic prospects.

But it was startling to see how far Saudi Arabia have gone to strengthen ties with Russia and China during the Biden administration.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rushed to visit Saudi Arabia in March of 2021 to cash in on President Biden’s mistakes.

Russia and Saudi Arabia signed an oil production agreement in June 2021 and military cooperation agreements in February and August of the same year.

In addition, not only has Saudi Arabia refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or cooperate with U.S.-led efforts to isolate Russia over the invasion, it strengthened relations with Moscow over the last year.

The Crown Prince has stayed in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin and reportedly agreed during a phone call with the Russian leader last July to cooperate in the OPEC+ cartel to keep oil prices high, ignoring request by Biden officials to lower them.

Despite U.S. sanctions, Saudi Arabia also doubled its imports of Russian Mazut heavy-fuel oil in the second quarter of 2022.

Saudi officials have disputed Biden administration allegations that it has backed Russia in the Ukraine war, noting that it provided $400 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and played a central role in Russia releasing Ukrainian, British, and American prisoners.

This includes the release of U.S. professional basketball player Brittney Griner in December. Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with China during the Biden administration have been just as troubling.

Saudi Arabia took a significant step to improve relations with China in March 2022 when it said it planned to price some oil sales to China in Chinese currency, the yuan, instead of the U.S. dollar — a move that shields Chinese trade from the reach of U.S. sanctions and threatens the role of the dollar as the global reserve currency.

There were more dramatic developments in the Saudi-China relationship when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia last December.

During this trip, the two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement and Xi attended two summits with leaders from Arab, Persian Gulf, and African countries.

Saudi Arabia and China signed agreements strengthening China’s Belt and Road Initiative and for Chinese firm Huawei Technologies to sell cloud computing services and build high-tech complexes in Saudi cities.

The United States has warned its allies not to purchase high-tech equipment from Huawei due to concerns that Chinese intelligence will exploit this equipment to collect sensitive information. Saudi Arabia and most Gulf states have ignored these warnings.

Biden administration policies accelerated Saudi flirting with Moscow and Beijing, but this flirting predates the Biden administration.

Riyadh made other moves in recent years to diversify its economic and political alliances due to its perception that America is losing interest in the Mideast and is a declining superpower.

The Crown Prince also reportedly wants to establish his country as a power player that's not dependent on the United States.

Saudi Arabia also has crucial trade relationships that do not involve the United States or are at odds with it.

The Saudis have strived for stable prices in the energy market, which sometimes put it at odds with the United States — which wants low oil prices — and in cooperation with Russia, which wants higher prices.

Saudi Arabia’s relationship with China also is driven by the fact that China is both Saudi Arabia’s major trading partner and the world’s largest importer of oil.

Although the Biden administration’s missteps in dealing with Saudi Arabia have been significant, the longtime U.S.-Saudi partnership is not about to collapse.

Its relationship with China and Russia will likely be limited unless the administration does or says something exceedingly unwise to alienate Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has a critical security relationship with the United States and shared views on regional threats that Russia and China do not share, especially concerning Iran.

Russia’s growing relationship with Iran likely will be a significant impediment to its efforts to establish closer relations with Riyadh.

Two lessons that President Biden and his senior officials should learn from their dealings with Saudi Arabia from the first two years of Mr. Biden’s term in office are:

1.) Do not take America’s relationship with the Saudis for granted.

2.) Words matter.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship is strong but can be weakened by bad American policies. And President Biden must realize that Saudi Arabia will not just ignore him when he makes careless, hostile remarks about their country and its leaders.

Fred Fleitz is a Newsmax TV Contributor and vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council Chief of staff, CIA analyst, and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee staff. Read more reports from Fred Fleitz — Click Here Now.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship is strong but can be weakened by bad American policies. And President Biden must realize that Saudi Arabia will not just ignore him when he makes careless, hostile remarks about their country and its leaders.
kingdom, opec
Wednesday, 11 January 2023 05:43 AM
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