How MBS is still betting on Trump's return
Refusing to take an anti-Russia stance and the $2 billion investment in the Kushner fund may indicate MBS is hopeful for Trump's reelection.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) appears to be betting on Donald Trump's re-election by refusing to assist the US in sanctioning Russia for the war in Ukraine and investing $2 billion in an investment firm controlled by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Donald Trump's son-in-law defended bin Salman following US investigations that accused the Crown Prince of approving the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in September, which was their first meeting, in shorts at his seaside palace, and the prince shouted at Sullivan when he brought up the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Read more: Khashoggi killers live in luxury villas in Riyadh
US officials have reported that the relationship between Washington and Riyadh has hit its lowest point in decades, especially after President Biden said Saudi should be treated as a pariah over various human rights issues, including Khashoggi's murder.
Political rifts have deepened between the two countries in light of the war in Ukraine, according to both US and Saudi officials.
The Biden administration is searching for measures to convince the Saudi government that it is committed to the kingdom's security by persuading Riyadh to raise oil output, lowering prices by up to 30%, and reducing Russian government revenue.
The White House stated on Thursday that it was an "iron-clad commitment from the president on down," and the Pentagon is supposed to be working on a new declaration of US-Saudi security arrangements, although analysts say it is unlikely.
Read more: MBS faces dilemma over Russia, China after West push for oil
In March, MBS declined US requests to speak and the last call between the two countries was with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on February 9.
Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA official and the director of the Brookings Institution’s intelligence project, says that “It boils down to something very simple. The Saudis – meaning Mohammed bin Salman – have chosen Trump over Biden, and they’re sticking to their bet."
“It’s not an unreasonable proposition. Trump gave them everything they wanted: complete support in Yemen, support over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, whatever they wanted in terms of access in the United States.”
John Jenkins, a former UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia believes that MBS probably sees Biden as "weak."
Whereas the Trump administration and Kushner were huge advocates for MBS, inside the Biden administration, there are supporters of appeasing the Saudi crown prince in pursuit of the overall goal of lowering oil prices — for the impact on both Kremlin coffers and the politically important price at the pump.
According to a European official, “There is a real argument at the moment that you can befriend anyone who isn’t Russia now." The Pentagon has lately held negotiations in order to reach an agreement on US security arrangements with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf governments.
According to Riedel, "The Saudis have chosen to go with Putin and the oil production level they want, and the world economy is adjusting to that."