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Opinion: Biden’s fist bump turned slap in the face

Editor’s Be aware: David A. Andelman, a contributor to CNN, twice winner of the Deadline Membership Award, is a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, creator of “A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen” and blogs at Andelman Unleashed. He previously was a correspondent for The New York Instances and CBS Information in Europe and Asia. The views expressed on this commentary are his personal. View extra opinion at CNN.


A lot for cozying as much as the Saudis – President Joe Biden’s much-hyped fist bump with Mohammed bin Salman throughout a visit to the Center East again in July has changed into one thing of a slap throughout the face from the crown prince.

David Andelman

This week’s OPEC+ announcement that it will be slashing oil manufacturing by 2 million barrels per day – engineered, by most accounts, by Saudi Arabia and Russia – is already upsetting a cascade of poisonous geopolitical shifts.

A bunch of points all converge right here at this epiphanal second. There’s the European Union, which is all of the sudden having to work out the way it may nonetheless implement its price cap on Russian crude.

There’s oil producer Venezuela, which with OPEC’s one stroke is trying to the US extra like an attractive trading partner than a hemispheric pariah.

There’s the prospect of a resurgence of coal as a gas and its influence on our complete planet.

After which there’s the leap in oil costs, a supply of latest revenues Russia so desperately must proceed its struggle in Ukraine, the place a lightning counteroffensive is hurting President Vladimir Putin on the battlefield and at home.

President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fist bump upon Biden's arrival at Al Salman Palace, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 15.

For now, essentially the most instant fallout might be on oil costs and revenues. Designed to spur a reversal of the development that has despatched oil costs plummeting to $80 a barrel from just over $130 a barrel in March, the influence on costs on the fuel pump and on inflation in the US on the eve of mid-term elections is already being felt.

Oil monitor Platts pegged the crude worth at $93.73 a barrel on October 4, up 11% from $84.63 on September 26, when rumors of an OPEC lower first started circulating. However that’s nonetheless down from a June 14 peak of $132.06 a barrel.

Morgan Stanley analysts lifted their estimates for oil costs to $100 a barrel hours after the OPEC announcement. Any such reversal will inevitably have an effect on fuel costs and inflation.

On the identical time, the EU appears fairly intent on implementing a worth cap on Russian crude oil for its 27 member nations. This complex formula – designed to slash the revenues Putin can elevate to pursue his struggle in Ukraine – would penalize any transport line transporting Russian crude, withholding insurance coverage for his or her cargo or vessels if the oil they’re carrying is priced above the EU restrict.

With OPEC chopping output throughout the board, that might enhance the ache to European clients even additional, since oil costs from different oil-producing nations might rise dramatically with provide cutbacks.

On the identical time, provide shortages might make the oil Russia has been promoting at its personal cut price basement costs to sympathetic nations like China and India, amongst others, all of the extra engaging. If the EU succeeds in curbing the sale of Russian oil to its members, there might be that rather more output obtainable on the market elsewhere.

And if world oil costs do surge on account of provide cutbacks, the prepared supply of Russian crude at cut-rate costs can be a boon to those international locations’ economies.

Concurrently, the US has begun trying much more attentively to different sources of provide for crude to make up for the OPEC shortfall. The Wall Road Journal reported the Biden administration may very well be ready to scale down sanctions on Venezuela and permit Chevron to start exporting once more from the nation to the US, with some political circumstances comparable to President Nicolás Maduro opening talks with opposition leaders.

This could have little instant influence however might ultimately be a part of a broader sample of shifting the world’s oil imports away from Russia. Certainly at its top within the Seventies, Venezuela was producing 3.8 million barrels per day, based on Forbes. In August this 12 months, that determine was all the way down to 723,000 barrels, based on the Warsaw Institute.

Past oil, European international locations have already been steadily weaning themselves off Russian fuel because the invasion of Ukraine. (In early September Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline indefinitely, citing an oil leak).

With such substantial curbs – and now the rise within the worth of oil that will have been an alternative to Russia’s pure fuel in some elements of the world – different vitality sources are all of the sudden starting to look an entire lot extra engaging, with probably catastrophic impacts on the setting.

Already, international locations like Germany, France and the United Kingdom are both restarting or contemplating a return to coal crops – some of the polluting fuels – to assist plug fuel shortages. OPEC cutbacks and worth will increase might solely speed up this environmentally harmful development.

The OPEC manufacturing cutbacks might – certainly, ought to – backfire for Saudi Arabia and its complicit companions. It’s previous time for the US and its allies to extend the stress. Congress has already been contemplating laws referred to as NOPEC (No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels) which might permit the US to revoke the sovereign immunity of OPEC oil producers like Saudi-owned Aramco and permit the US lawyer common to sue them for damages in federal courtroom.

Moreover, there’s rising sentiment in Congress to reevaluate America’s wider relationship with Saudi Arabia and particularly the huge arms gross sales to the dominion.

Rep. Ro Khanna went additional, telling CNN he needs the Biden administration to halt all gross sales of aviation elements – and to stop Raytheon and Boeing from making Saudi gross sales. Each are giant weapons suppliers to Saudi Arabia.

And Rep. Tom Malinowski instructed Politico Playbook this week that he’ll introduce laws to “mandate the elimination of US troops and missile protection programs” from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The language comes straight out of a GOP-sponsored invoice from 2020 – making it much more troublesome for Republicans to vote ‘no.’

With Saudi Arabia making ready to renew a lethal and protracted struggle in Yemen in opposition to Iranian proxies (following the expiration of a tottering truce earlier this month), the Saudis are in dire want of materiel that the US can provide and that few different international locations – actually not Russia lately – can provide.

Clearly, the Saudis have thrown down a gauntlet alongside one which has lengthy been on the desk from Russia. It’s time for the US to struggle again. From my visits to the dominion for many years, I do know that its leaders respect one trait from allies and enemies alike – power and willingness to carry to their convictions.

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