President Joe Biden is “reevaluating” the country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia after it backed Russia’s demands to cut oil production, The New York Times reports.
OPEC+, a group of major oil producers that includes Saudi Arabia and Russia, last week voted to cut oil production by about 2%, citing concerns of a global economic slowdown.
But critics say the move helps Russian President Vladimir Putin and could raise gas prices in the U.S. ahead of the November midterm elections.
Biden previously sought to improve relations with the Saudis, facing criticism over a July trip when he fist-bumped Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
But the Saudi’s decision to back Russia in defiance of Biden’s pressure angered the White House and Congressional Democrats, a growing number of whom have called to retaliate against the kingdom.
“I think the president’s been very clear that this is a relationship that we need to continue to re-evaluate, that we need to be willing to revisit,” John Kirby, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, told CNN. “And certainly in light of the OPEC decision, I think that’s where he is.”
Kirby signaled an openness from the administration to back legislation retaliating against Saudi Arabia. Democrats have proposed cutting security cooperation with the country and stripping OPEC members of their legal immunity.
“The president’s obviously disappointed by the OPEC decision and is going to be willing to work with Congress as we think about what the right relationship with Saudi Arabia needs to be going forward,” Kirby said. “The timeline’s now and I think he’s going to be willing to start to have those conversations right away,” he said. “I don’t think this is anything that’s going to have to wait or should wait quite frankly for much longer.”
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The statement came one day after Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez called to “immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests.”
Menendez cited Russia’s recent attack on civilian targets in Ukraine.
“That is why I also must speak out against the government of Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to help underwrite Putin’s war through the OPEC+ cartel,” he said. “There simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict – either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping off an entire country off of the map, or you support him. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia chose the latter in a terrible decision driven by economic self-interest.”