According to Axios, the president’s advisers are considering the trip as a way to mend fences with the Islamic nation and get them to produce more oil to offset the loss that would come should the U.S. ban the purchase of oil from Russia.
The meeting would come at a time when Americans are hurting due to inflation, which has been particularly noticeable at the gas pump, with prices climbing higher and higher. Biden spent much of last year citing the need to move away from fossil fuels because climate change was the “greatest threat” to the country, and one of his first acts was to shut down the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Now critics are slamming him by pointing to current events as evidence that energy independence is essential. When the U.S. boasted sanctions against Russia last month, the Treasury Department made clear that the blocking of transactions included a carve-out that allowed energy-related purchases. The administration is leaving the possibility of closing that loophole as an option.
Turning to Saudi Arabia as an alternative could require the U.S. to smooth over some differences between the two nations. Last year, Biden released an unclassified report concluding that Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, approved the killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi. MBS recently made clear that he does not want the West interfering in his affairs, delivering an icy message in a recent interview with The Atlantic.
“We don’t have the right to lecture you in America,” MBS said. “The same goes the other way.”
Discussions with Saudi Arabia could also be complicated, given recent progress towards a new nuclear deal with Iran, which has drawn concerns from Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Saudi Arabia has also been in talks with Iran, but they want to make sure that a deal will be comprehensive enough to truly prevent their regional rival from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“We do not want to see a weak nuclear deal because the result will be the same in the end,” MBS said, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the White House is not confirming whether Biden will in fact go to Saudi Arabia.
“We don’t have any international travel to announce at this time, and a lot of this is premature speculation,” an administration spokesperson told Axios.
At the moment, the White House is exploring other energy options, and officials are in Venezuela for discussions with President Nicolas Maduro’s administration.