Forbes, July 23, 2022
Since the historic meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Saudi Arabia’s founder King Abdulaziz aboard the USS Quincy in 1945, America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has always been transactional: oil for security. Over the past fifteen years, ever since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, the perceived failure of both sides to honor their terms of the bargain has produced a prisoner’s dilemma of mutual distrust and uncertainty that leads each party to act selfishly and produces suboptimal choices for both. President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Jeddah proved that he could not resolve this conundrum.
Biden failed to secure a deal with Saudi Arabia on increasing oil production not because of mismanaged diplomacy or gaffes, but because of longstanding failures in American grand strategy.
The White House claims that the trip was successful. It was not. Despite a host of agreements being reached on investment, communication, and space, the Biden administration walked away empty-handed over the trip’s raison d’etre: increasing Saudi oil production. The Saudis only promised they would “consult” with the US on oil issues while insisting they would be unable to increase oil production. The Saudis further demurred by saying they will take the issue to OPEC+, where the Russians, Iranians, and Venezuelans are likely to kill any proposed production hikes.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is importing increasing amounts Russian fuel oil and diesel to free up its own crude for export, while Saudi Arabia benefits from increasing energy prices.