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Saudi Arabia says Biden administration asked them to delay oil cuts until after midterm elections

The Saudis reject accusations that the oil cuts signal support for Russia’s war in Ukraine

SHARE Saudi Arabia says Biden administration asked them to delay oil cuts until after midterm elections
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets President Joe Biden with a fist bump.

In this image released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets President Joe Biden with a fist bump after his arrival at Al-Salam palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022.

Saudi Royal Palace via Associated Press

Saudi Arabia said that Biden administration officials pressured them and other OPEC+ nations to delay oil production cuts by a month, possibly intending for Americans to avoid feeling the impact of higher energy costs until after voting in the midterm elections.

OPEC+ nations announced a unanimous vote last week to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day. The 13-nation oil cartel, which includes Russia, said the move was about market stabilization. But the production cuts come as European sanctions levied in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to hurt consumers there over the winter months, in addition to driving up the cost of fuel in the U.S. 

Biden administration officials said they urged Saudi Arabia to delay the decision until their next scheduled meeting in December. “We presented Saudi Arabia with analysis to show that there was no market basis to cut production targets, and that they could easily wait for the next OPEC meeting to see how things developed,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told The Wall Street Journal in a statement.

The administration also warned that cutting production would raise global oil prices and bolster Russia’s funding of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries rejected the request, viewing Washington’s counsel as a “political gambit by the Biden administration to avoid bad news ahead of the U.S. midterm elections,” according to Saudi officials who talked with the Journal.

Democrats are now accusing Saudi Arabia of aligning with Russia in its war in Ukraine. 

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told the BBC that he is now prepared to freeze any U.S. arm sales to Saudi Arabia. “For us to treat this country as just another ally is totally unacceptable now that they’ve sided with Putin,” he said.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that he “will not green-light any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position with respect to Ukraine.”

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he will work with Congress to “re-think” America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. “I am in the process, when the House and Senate gets back, they’re going to have to — there’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia,” Biden said.

These and other comments from Democratic officials led the Saudi foreign ministry to hit back at the Biden administration’s accusation that they were supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine in a statement released Wednesday night.

The Saudis insisted that a one month delay in the OPEC decision to cut oil production, as suggested by the U.S. administration, would have resulted in “negative economic consequences” relating to the energy market. 

The kingdom also expressed its “total rejection” of the accusations that the decision was made to take sides in international conflict or that the decision was “politically motivated against the United States of America.”

Biden was criticized for his overtures to Saudi Arabia this summer, particularly in light of their reported involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.