Days before a major oil-production cut by OPEC and its Russia-led allies, U.S. officials called their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and other big Gulf producers with an urgent appeal—delay the decision for another month, according to people familiar with the talks. The answer: a resounding no.
U.S. officials warned Saudi leaders that a cut would be viewed as a clear choice by Riyadh to side with Russia in the Ukraine war and that the move would weaken already-waning support in Washington for the kingdom, the people said.
Saudi officials dismissed the requests, which they viewed as a political gambit by the Biden administration to avoid bad news ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, on which control of Congress hangs. High gas prices and inflation have been central issues in the campaign.
Instead, the people said, the kingdom leaned on its OPEC allies to approve the cut, which is aimed at reducing production by 2 million barrels a day.
Adrienne Watson, a National Security Council spokeswoman, rejected Saudi contentions that the Biden administration efforts were driven by political calculations. U.S. officials questioned a Saudi analysis that the price of oil was about to plunge and urged them to wait and see how the market reacted. If the price did collapse, U.S. officials told their Saudi counterparts, OPEC+ could react whenever they needed.
“It’s categorically false to connect this to U.S. elections,” Ms. Watson said. “It’s about the impact of this shortsighted decision to the global economy.” [Continue reading…]