WASHINGTON — The American secretary of state said on Wednesday that the United States would re-evaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia over the kingdom’s decision to support Russia by agreeing to cut oil production next month, a move that the White House has asserted helps Moscow’s war effort against Ukraine.
Saudi leaders decided earlier this month to join Russia in leading a cartel of oil producers to announce cutting production by two million barrels a day, which could raise prices and help Russia. Moscow is spending heavily on its war in Ukraine.
The secretary, Antony J. Blinken, said the United States continued to view the decision announced on Oct. 5 in Vienna by OPEC Plus, a group of 23 oil-producing countries that includes Russia, as “wrong.”
“We’ve not been shy about making clear the extent to which we view that as a wrong decision and one that does nothing actually to advance our interests,” he said at a talk at the Bloomberg News bureau in Washington. He also said that the re-evaluation of the U.S.-Saudi relationship would be done “in a very deliberate fashion, in consultation with members of Congress as the president said, to make sure that the relationship better reflects our own interests.”
Saudi officials say OPEC Plus makes its decisions based on economic analysis of the oil market and not on political goals. They also say they are not working in lockstep with Russia on oil policy.
Mr. Blinken said the U.S. government was aware that Saudi Arabia had made some gestures to help Ukraine since the OPEC Plus announcement — including supporting a recent United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops, and an announcement by Riyadh that it plans to give $400 million in additional humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“Both of these are positive developments,” Mr. Blinken said. “They don’t compensate for the decision that was made by OPEC Plus on production, but we take note of that.”
The United States and its allies have imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia since it began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, but Russia has continued to reap substantial revenues from oil exports because of high global oil prices. The OPEC Plus announcement has not led to a surge in oil prices yet, but U.S. officials are watching for what will happen when the production decline takes effect in November.
The United States and European allies are also trying to work out a complex mechanism for imposing a price cap on Russian oil at the same time that a partial embargo by Europe on the commodity goes into effect in early December. The OPEC Plus announcement in October complicates those discussions.
U.S. officials scrambled in late September to try to persuade Saudi Arabia not to lead OPEC Plus in announcing the production cut, but failed in their efforts. American officials thought they had reached a private deal with Saudi officials in May for the Saudis to push OPEC Plus to announce gradual increases to oil production throughout the fall to help bring down high oil prices. Saudi officials dispute that, saying they act based on market conditions.