President Joe Biden voiced his fury with Saudi Arabia over OPEC+ oil production cuts Tuesday, accusing the kingdom of allying itself with Russia and vowing to engage with US lawmakers clamoring to punish Riyadh. “There’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done, with Russia,” Biden said in an interview with CNN.
The president added that he believes it’s time for the US to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia. But he and senior administration officials also conceded that a legislative plan to retaliate was unlikely to materialize until after November’s midterm elections, underscoring the complex calculations the US faces as it weighs a longtime partnership that has quickly soured.
Earlier Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the OPEC+ decision to slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day “short-sighted” and said “it benefited Russia at a time when nobody in any capacity should be trying to benefit Vladimir Putin.” Russia is a leader of the OPEC+ alliance.
And the administration warned that the move risked undermining the Group of Seven’s diplomatic efforts to support developing countries with infrastructure investment, since those nations were least equipped to bear the burden of higher oil prices. But the anger expressed toward Saudi Arabia by Biden administration officials was not immediately met with commensurate action.
John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman, said Biden believes “it’s time to take another look at this relationship and make sure that it’s serving our national security interests.”
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday the White House has no timeline for its review nor has the president appointed an adviser to serve as point person. Meanwhile, officials underscore the central role that Saudi Arabia plays in addressing broader national security concerns in the Middle East.
Blumenthal and Khanna unveiled their legislation one day after Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said it was unacceptable that OPEC+ had moved to cut oil production and effectively assist Moscow in its war on Ukraine. Menendez promised to use his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to block any future arms sales to the Saudis.
Menendez did not warn the White House before announcing his intention to block future Saudi arms sales, Kirby said. OPEC+, which includes Russia as well as Saudi Arabia, announced last week it would cut production by 2 million barrels a day, which will help prop up oil prices that are allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep paying for his eight-month invasion of Ukraine.
The production cut also hurts U.S.-led efforts to make the war financially unsustainable for Russia, threatens a global economy already destabilized by the Ukraine conflict, and risks saddling Biden and Democrats with newly rising gasoline prices just ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.