Sen. Menendez: Freeze U.S. cooperation with Saudi Arabia over cut in oil production

Sen. Bob Menendez D-Ill., on Monday joined several of his Democratic colleagues in denouncing Saudi Arabia over its recent decision to cut oil production. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
Sen. Bob Menendez D-Ill., on Monday joined several of his Democratic colleagues in denouncing Saudi Arabia over its recent decision to cut oil production. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Sen. Bob Menendez called for an immediate freeze to all U.S. cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales, in response to its move to cut oil production amid already strained supplies due to Russia's war in Ukraine.

The senior Democratic senator and chair of the Senate foreign relations committee made his warning Monday as several members of his party have accused the Middle Eastern country of supporting Russia's war when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided last week to cut production by 2 million barrels of oil per day.


"The United States must immediately freeze all aspects of cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests," the New Jersey senator said in a statement. "As chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, I will not green-light any cooperation with Riyadh until the kingdom reassesses its position with respect to the war in Ukraine.


"Enough is enough."

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Saudi Arabia is seen as the de facto leader of OPEC, which issued the cutback on production Wednesday, explaining in a statement that it was done "in light of the uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks."

The White House was quick to respond, with national security advisor Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese issuing a joint statement that described the decision by OPEC as "shortsighted.

The pair said issuing an oil cutback when maintaining a global supply of energy is "of paramount importance" will damage low- and middle-income countries most. In response, the Biden administration will look to reduce OPEC's control over energy prices, they said.

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Menendez went further and accused Saudi Arabia's decision as helping to "underwrite" Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

"There simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict -- either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping off an entire country off of the map, or you support him," he said. "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia chose the latter in a terrible decision driven by economic self-interest."

The Kremlin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, igniting not only a war but concerns over energy security as Russian is a major exporter of oil and natural gas, especially to Europe.


In response to the war, countries have sought to end their dependency on Russian energy while releasing millions of barrels from their strategic reserves. Moscow, in turn, has also moved to deny or decrease supplies to some countries, all of which have caused prices to climb.

Senate majority whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., last week called for U.S. foreign policy to end its alliance with the Saudi royal family who has "never been a trustworthy ally of our nation."

In a statement on Thursday, he called the royal family "backstabbers" and their decision to cut oil production as "conspiring with Vladimir Putin to punish the U.S. with higher oil prices."

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said the Democrats will be looking at "all the legislative tools" at their disposal to confront Saudi Arabia's "appalling and deeply cynical action," including introducing the so-called NOPEC Act, which would allow the United States to take action against price fixing by OPEC and its partners.

The act, which would allow the Justice Department to file lawsuits against oil cartel members, passed the Senate judiciary committee in May.

"What Saudi Arabia did to help Putin continue to wage his despicable, vicious war against Ukraine will long be remembered by Americans," Schumer said via Twitter.


Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also voiced displeasure at the move last week, calling for all U.S. troops to be pulled from Saudi Arabia.

"If Saudi Arabia, one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, wants to partner with Russia to jack up U.S. gas prices, it can get Putin to defend its monarchy," he said.

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