What alternatives does Washington have after the ban of Russian Oil?

After the announcement of the US president Joe Biden of banning the import of the Russian oil and gas. He had several meetings with European countries in order to take a similar action and ban the import of oil and gas from Russia, which will drastically affect the Russian economy. Theses meetings weren’t successful due the dependance of the the European counties in Russia for their energy supply, many European countries are afraid that if they cut their power supply from Russia, they will be facing a crisis as they are not sure whether they can depend on other countries to satisfy their oil and gas needs or not? The Washington move might be described as bold, but President Biden seems to be confident that he can domestically along with importing gas and oil from other countries rather than Russia will satisfy the US power needs.

While searching for gas suppliers it’s most likely that the US will turn to Saudi Arabia. But this might not be an option since the Saudi-US relationship is facing a milestone since president joe Biden came into office and the harsh comments he made about Saudi Arabia. There are some sources in the white house indicating that the white house might be in contact with Riyadh soon.

In this analysis we will discuss the consequences of the US’s decision of banning the Russian energy supply on its foreign policy regarding some states, for instance Saudi Arabia and Venezuela that are two of the major oil suppliers in the world.


One of the obvious questions that is asked by political analysts about the future of the Saudi-US relation, and whether Saudi Arabia will use oil as a tool to pressure the United States to change its foreign policy with Saudi Arabia. Given the fact that since President Biden came to office the Saudi-US relationship is going through a rough patch that resulted in some aggressive action taken by the US. Among these actions are:

  • Criticism toward Saudi Arabia: This criticism started in President Biden’s election campaign and after he became the president. Biden mentioned many times his criticism regarding Saudi’s internal and foreign policies. Especially the Saudi intervention in the Yemen war and Saudi’s humanitarian crimes. And threatened to cut Saudi’s gun supply, mentioning that he will make Saudi an abundant island. He also refused to talk with Saudi’s heir king Mohamed ben Salman and declared that he would only speak with king Salman only. In an interview with king Mohamed ben Salman, he mentioned that “he doesn’t predict anything from Biden”.
  • US ignoring the Houthis attacks: The US administration ignored the Houthis attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that targeted some residential areas. Along with US declaring that it no longer supports the Arab association in Yamen and the condemnation of its operations from yamen. Along with the removal of the Houthis from the terrorist groups list after the republican party pressure. US explained that by removing Houthis from the list will pave the way for a resolution that can be reached to end the yamen war.
  • Nuclear Agreement with Iran: The US is on the verge of signing an agreement with Tehran concerning nuclear weapons. Though the delayed agreement might be the result of the Iranian acknowledge of the oil supply issue that the western countries are facing which might be in favor of Iran and will lead to signing a weaker agreement. This will allow Iran to increase its power in the region and talk more freely on the ongoing cases.

Consequently, there has been some meetings held between the heir of Saudi Arabia and the UAE prior to the Russia-Ukraine situation. During this meeting both heirs had agreed to buy military equipment from Russia. Following these discussions both heirs took another decision that they will not increase the extraction and production of oil to cover the US oil needs, which if they agreed upon oil prices will return back to the price prior to the Russia-Ukraine war. Saudi also announced its commitment to the OPEC agreement that includes Russia, which not only oppose the US’s decisions but also shows its support to Russia even if temporarily. Subsequently it’s assumed that the gulf countries especially Saudi Arabia will put pressure on the US to get some modifications from Washington regarding the US with guarantees regarding its security first and foremost.

But it’s unlikely that the Saudi pressure will continue for long, despite the ignorance from Washington to the security of the gulf under the Biden administration, and the many attempts to use the Ukraine issue in their favor after the arrangements done between the region’s countries. This is clear after the short visit of the president Abdel Fatah El Sisi to Riyad and his call with President Putin following this visit, that is thought as a temporary pressure on the US aiming at restoring the relationship with the US and not cutting off any ties even if this means giving up the Russian support. The Saudi relation with both China and Russia didn’t pass the stage that it’s a tool of negotiation between them and Washington. So, it’s expected that the region’s countries would change their minds if Washington gave them any sign that it will reach with them satisfying agreements. Also, regarding the countries security and acting regarding the Iran and Houthi threats. Another indicator is that Saudi Arabia and UAE voted against Russia in the general assembly meeting regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And the indications drawn from the UAE’s ambassador in the US Youssef Al ateiby of the production increase such announcement couldn’t have been said without the arrangement with the UAE’s government. And the Saudi-us military operation to save two American women from the Hothi in Sanaa last January.

Synchronized moves:

While the Saudi-US pressure is happening on the other side Washington is working on reaching an agreement with Venezuela that is considered one of the important oil producers. Biden has appointed his secretariat to talk with the Venezuelan secretariat that resulted in a diplomatic visit to Caracas to restore the diplomatic relations with Caracas that have been cut since 2019 under the former president Trump’s administration. Due to the US objection on the results of the presidential elections that resulted in the victory of Nicolas marcour and the US recognition of the opposing competitor Kwan that resulted in imposing a huge sanction on Venezuela. That’s why menudo refused the increase of oil production at first but it was expected that he would change his mind and that he is only opposing in order for the sanctions to be removed from his state in return for increasing the oil production which will affect his relationship with his ally Putin.

Maduro announced that his country will produce 2 million gallon of oil a day and sell them in the market. A move that makes us wander how much did the US have to compromise inn order for this decision to be reached. And how much money of the sanction was waved off.

The delay can be due to the negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear weapons agreement resulting from the Russian pressure on Iran due to the Russian acknowledgement that if Iran signed the agreement Russia will be isolated especially after the western sanctions.

In regards to the alternatives such as Venezuela in case Riyad didn’t sign an agreement regarding the increase of oil production, Venezuela wouldn’t be able to satisfy the need. And Iran that if signed the nuclear agreement will not be an immediate candidate in the oil market which might last for a few months. So, the only countries that can produce immediate oil to cover the Russian oil are the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. But Biden’s inconsiderate foreign policy which affects the country’s internal affairs, that’s reflected in Afghanistan and Ukraine and the harsh treatment and criticism regarding the region since he came into office. The Democrats and Biden are pressured to maintain the low prices of oil especially if due to the upcoming mid- renewal elections.

Washington is using its   restored relationship with Venezuela (an OPEC member) to pressure some countries to increase their oil production especially in the presence of the UAE’s flexibility, or the use of an intermediary party like Qatar or Britain.

To conclude the US took the initiative to ban the use of the Russian oil but it doesn’t want to stay on its own. Or the oil supply from Qatar or Venezuela or even the local production of oil would be sufficient for the us and would satisfy the oil needs maintaining the low prices. The US also wants other European countries to join it to balance the prices of oil as soon as possible. Also, to apply pressure on Russia that’s economy relay heavily on exporting oil after imposing sanctions on it, and to relative some internal pressure from the US’s side

US’s oversight:

The white house speaker jean saky denied the arrangement of any meeting that will take place between the US president and the King of Saudi Arabia despite the confirmation of many US officials. She also announced that the US president is not willing to visit Saudi Arabia any time soon. Though it’s reasonable that a meeting will take place soon or that a meeting was scheduled and got postponed due to the pressure applied on Biden by the democrats after the publish of many reports concerning the visit. The American administration will have to make a tough decision to reach an agreement with its gulf allays to increase their oil supply either by a presidential visit or by reaching an agreement that would help the Gulf’s security issues.

وردة عبد الرازق

رئيس برنامج الدراسات الأوروبية و الأمريكية ، حاصلة على بكالوريوس علوم سياسية، جامعة بنى سويف، الباحثة مهتمة بدارسة الشأن التركي ومتابعة لتفاعلاته الداخلية والخارجية

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