Biden is not among the allies Saudi Arabia is picking, according to its own criteria.

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Mohammed bin Salman anticipated it. Since he assisted in steering an Opec+ agreement to reduce the world’s oil supply last week, there has been a discernible and growing tsunami of rage in Washington.

But for the first time in the contemporary history of US-Saudi relations, there was no hurry to appease resentments or cover up a divide. This marked the beginning of a new realpolitik, as emerging Saudi nationalism linked itself with what Riyadh literally saw as a new world order, paying little attention to a longstanding ally in the process.

The decision by Opec+, the oil production cartel that includes Russia and is led by Saudi Arabia, was the clearest indication yet that relations between Washington and Riyadh have reached an all-time low. Perhaps more significantly, it showed that the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia is not overly concerned about the state of affairs. Prior to and especially in the three months after Joe Biden’s July visit to Jeddah, Saudi social media was vibrating with news of a “swagger” displayed by Prince Mohammed and, by implication, Saudi Arabia. The 37-year-old heir to the throne had made use of the opportunity to plan out the appearance and direction of the country under his rule.

The decision by Opec+, the oil production cartel that includes Russia and is led by Saudi Arabia, was the clearest indication yet that relations between Washington and Riyadh have reached an all-time low. Perhaps more significantly, it showed that the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia is not overly concerned about the state of affairs. Prior to and especially in the three months after Joe Biden’s July visit to Jeddah, Saudi social media was vibrating with news of a “swagger” displayed by Prince Mohammed and, by implication, Saudi Arabia. The 37-year-old heir to the throne had made use of the opportunity to plan out the appearance and direction of the country under his rule.

He argued that Riyadh would transform from a theocracy akin to the Flintstones that shunned development and hid behind a US security blanket to a prosperous middle power that picked its allies on its own terms. They were not to include Biden, who has previously called the crown prince a pariah whom he would shun while in government.

The largest item in its toolbox, oil, was no longer to be a reward given to friends at friends’ rates but rather a weapon to be used – for Saudi interests. The new positions tore apart the compromises that had supported US-Saudi Arabia bilateral ties, particularly an unofficial agreement that had secured the kingdom’s security in exchange for maintaining open oil valves and, when it counted, cheap bowser prices.

Such new postures in isolation would have been unsettling enough for a US leadership that had become accustomed to taking Riyadh‘s support for granted. But a new geopolitical dynamic has evolved in the backdrop of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia joined forces with Russia and indirectly supported Vladimir Putin’s military effort at a time when the Russian president was faltering by reducing supply to keep prices high.

In response, Riyadh asserted that the decision to reduce output by 2 million barrels was entirely commercial in nature and suggested that an oil price of about $100 would be necessary to sustain the significant investments the kingdom has made throughout Saudi Arabia to finance economic and cultural initiatives. However, Prince Mohammed’s risk/reward ratio has obviously been adjusted. There is a commercial argument to be made for a higher price per barrel.

The prince continues to hold the stance that Saudi Arabia selects its allies based on its own interests.

Almost always during the last 70 years, Riyadh would have paused before taking such a step or at the very least attempted to convince Washington of its necessity. The perception this time was always going to be that this was a vote for Putin and a disendorsement of Biden, who now risks running in the November midterm elections with increased gas prices.

Prince Mohammed’s detractors in Washington, especially among Democrats, have accused him of meddling directly in a US election, which would be a very serious accusation. Whether it is true or not, Biden has taken the alleged slight personally and is threatening to change the dynamic in a way that Riyadh may find unsettling, perhaps by halting the transfer of arms.

For decades, Saudi Arabia has had continual access to state-of-the-art US weapons, and for the past 30 years, US technology and troops have been stationed there to support Saudi Arabia’s security. That looks to be in risk due to Biden and the Democrats’ rage.

For the time being, Prince Mohammed is standing by his stance that Saudi Arabia choose its allies based on its own interests. He perceives Putin as a person who like him, who is blatantly authoritarian, openly nationalistic, self-centered, antagonistic to human rights, and who is waiting for Donald Trump to come back.

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Neither the Russian president nor China’s leader, Xi Jinping, a steadfast Saudi friend who once again looks to be in the market for oil at any price, will relentlessly press Prince Mohammed on the issue of prisoners or crackdowns on dissent. The likelihood of a Trump who is elected again becoming a critic seems as remote.

In an obvious sign of their close friendship, Putin welcomed Mohammed bin Zayed, the president of the United Arab Emirates, to Moscow on Monday and handed him a coat to protect him from the chilly fall weather. Prince Mohammed has also benefited from Putin’s affection in public. But given the simmering conflict with Washington, even a trip to Moscow feels like a step too far.

Saudi Arabia is poised to support a United Nations resolution denouncing Russia for its recent annexation of Ukrainian territory, maybe as a symbol of reconciliation. However, such a step won’t do much to quell US rage, which appears set to intensify the issue.

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