With new tensions rising between the United States and Saudi Arabia during recent months, the fate of the historical security-economic deal between the two countries is in total limbo.
It was back on 14 February 1945 that while returning from the Yalta Conference, then-US President Franklin D Roosevelt had a private meeting with King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The meeting took place on USS Quincy in the Suez Canal, where the two sides inked an important deal known as the Quincy Pact.
According to this security-economic agreement, the US committed itself to provide unconditional protection to the ruling Al-Saud family for 60 years. In return, the oil-rich Saudi Arabia agreed to guarantee energy supplies to the US for the same period of time.
As the bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh went quite unbreakable during these 6 decades, the agreement was extended another 60 years in 2005 during the presidency of George W Bush.
All these years, the two countries have stayed totally loyal to the agreement, but things changed in 2017, when Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud became Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and also exacerbated in 2021, when Joe Biden was elected as the President of the US.
Biden’s hostile approach towards the Kingdom
Since the start of his presidency, Biden has completely ignored the de facto Saudi leader and deliberately chose not to contact the prince after his election as US president.
To further humiliate the young Crown Prince, Biden even insisted on speaking to King Salman when necessary and never allowed his son to join the discussions. In one of his interviews before his presidency, Biden had told the Council on Foreign Relations that “America’s priorities in the Middle East should be set in Washington, not Riyadh.”
Biden also blamed Bin Salman for human rights violations, especially the potential links between him and the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Throughout his election campaign, Biden even promised to punish Bin Salman for committing such crimes and also vowed to make Saudi Arabi a pariah state.
Biden also stepped further in hostility with the Kingdom and in a move that angered Bin Samlan more than ever, removed the Houthis in Yemen from the list of terrorist groups.
Bin Salman reacted with unprecedented moves
In reaction to Biden’s hostile approach, Bin Salman decided to get closer than ever before to America’s top rivals, namely Russia and China, a move that was considered too much extreme by Washington. In one of its most controversial moves, for example, Saudi Arabia recently refused to increase oil production when asked by the US to do so in order to reduce gasoline prices. Instead, the Kingdom preferred to stick to an agreement not to pump more oil than the output decided last year by OPEC and Russia.
To make matters even worse for the Biden administration, Saudi Arabia formally invited China’s president Xi Jinping to the Kingdom last month. Less than a month later, Xi arrived in Riyadh for a 3-day visit, during which the two countries signed a number of economic, military, and energy-related agreements worth billions of dollars. China, the world’s largest crude oil importer, relies heavily on Saudi oil, paying tens of billions of dollars annually to the kingdom. This was too much to swallow for Biden, especially after his similar trip to Saudi in July turned out to be a complete failure.
All in all, regarding all that was said of the tensions between Washington and Riyadh, it is not too impossible to expect that a new era of mistrust and rivalry is replacing years of strategic partnership between two seemingly lifelong allies.