Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a powerful U.S. Senator, placed a hold on new transfers of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia on Monday after Saudi Arabia and other major oil exporters decided to cut oil production, spiking prices.
On Monday, Menendez announced he would block arms sales to Saudi Arabia going forward. Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, directly cited Saudi Arabia’s decision to slow oil production in his call to halt U.S. arms sales.
Menendez accused Saudi Arabia and fellow oil exporters from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its affiliates (known as OPEC+) of slowing oil production to deliberately help Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine. Many countries had relied on Russian oil, but stopped buying it after Russia invaded Ukraine, instead turning to other oil exporters.
“I also must speak out against the government of Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to help underwrite Putin’s war through the OPEC+ cartel,” Menendez said. “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. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia chose the latter in a terrible decision driven by economic self-interest.”
“The United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests,” Menendez continued. “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.”
OPEC+’s decision to reduce oil production came at a time when Biden has been heavily drawing on the U.S. strategic oil reserve to stabilize gas prices. U.S. gas prices hit a record high after Russia invaded Ukraine and Biden banned imports of Russian oil.
While drawing from the strategic oil reserve, U.S. gas prices did drop over the summer. According to AAA, gas prices are once again trending upward. This rise in gas prices comes with just weeks to go before the 2022 midterm elections.
Biden’s critics, including oil industry insiders and Republican lawmakers, have criticized Biden’s energy policies, like his decision on his first day in office to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have run from Canada into the U.S. As Biden banned Russian oil and gas imports and U.S. gas prices jumped in March, Biden’s critics said the decision to cancel the pipeline into the U.S. and other cuts to domestic oil and gas production contributed to the pain at the pump.