Point-blank: Biden’s defeat

Mohamed Salmawy
Saturday 18 Jun 2022

US President Joe Biden, who opened his term with the resolve to carry out a campaign threat against Saudi Arabia, is now preparing to make a formal visit to the kingdom.


The news was announced after Riyadh agreed, despite the tensions between the two countries, to increase oil production to compensate for the halt in oil from Russia.

During his electoral campaign, Biden criticised how close the Saudi ruling family was to former president Trump and vowed to make Saudi Arabia “a pariah” for the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashogji. Now he is carrying out his promise, not against Saudi Arabia, but against Russia, a bigger target in his crosshairs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine gave Biden the opening to make Russia a pariah state, and he seized the opportunity to impose draconian political and economic sanctions. But the Russian defeat he had hoped for has not happened. Moreover, his forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia and his abandonment of his promises and principles is, in fact, a testimony to his defeat, not Putin’s.

The price of oil in the US has risen to around $6 per litre, up from $1.5 when Biden was sworn in, because the cost of crude oil is at its highest level since 2008. This works well for Russia, as a major petroleum exporter, and Putin’s decision to charge in rubles instead of dollars for Russian oil purchases has helped prop up the value of the Russian currency.

While OPEC agreed to increase production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, most of the increase will come from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. OPEC Secretary General Mohamed Barkindo explained that other producers could not make up for Russian petroleum exports which surpass seven million barrels a day.

Top-secret communications and visits helped pave the way for Biden’s anticipated visit to Saudi Arabia next month. The most recent was the visit undertaken by his senior Middle East Adviser Brett McGurk and his Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein to Saudi Arabia and the UAE two weeks ago.

A version of this article appears in print in the 16 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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