As President Biden prepares to visit Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich kingdom is closer than ever to Russia and has no plans to disengage from Moscow or help Washington by pumping more crude, Saudi officials said.
The burgeoning partnership between Russia and the Saudis, rooted in their vast petroleum production capacity, has upended an oil-for-security arrangement between Washington and Riyadh that has lasted nearly half a century and been a central fixture of the post-World War II international order.
In the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and after, the Saudis ignored Western calls to export more oil to help bring down international prices, which soared to almost $140 a barrel in March and have stayed mostly above $100 a barrel since late February.
Saudi Arabia was a close Cold War ally of Washington and served as a staging ground for U.S. troops in the 1991 Gulf War. But relations cooled with U.S. President Barack Obama’s push for a nuclear deal with Iran, a foe of the Saudis, in 2015.
Under President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the deal, the U.S. looked to bolster ties with Riyadh. But the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in 2018 strained relations, and the West distanced itself from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Russian President Vladimir Putin deepened his personal relationship with the young prince at a time when much of the developed world was shunning him. [Continue reading…]
The Saudi government’s murder of Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul was the most notorious recent example of what has become standard operating procedure for authoritarians around the world: transnational repression — autocratic governments’ noxious practice of targeting, intimidating and harming critics beyond their own borders.
Freedom House has documented 735 incidents between 2014 and 2021 of physical transnational repression globally, perpetrated by 36 governments. There are countless more that did not make the headlines. And Saudi Arabia is not only a practitioner of these repressive crackdowns — it’s an enabler of other repressive governments as well.
During his visit, it is crucial that President Biden refrain from saying or doing anything that would appear to excuse the crown prince for Khashoggi’s killing. And President Biden should go further by telling Saudi authorities that the United States and its democratic allies will not tolerate transnational repression. [Continue reading…]