President Joe Biden is recalibrating U.S. diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, deploying a new approach that includes sidestepping Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had a close relationship with the Trump administration.
In a stark reversal, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Tuesday said Biden will work directly with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud instead.
“We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki said Tuesday.
But as the Biden administration reevaluates the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, Russia is working to expand its ties to the oil-rich Gulf nation.
President Vladimir Putin and the crown prince addressed their continued coordination on stabilizing oil and energy markets in a phone call Monday, according to a statement by the Kremlin.
They further discussed beefing up their mutual cooperation in trade, investments, and the economy, along with Saudi Arabia’s potential reliance on Russian-made vaccines to counter the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden, who has spoken with Putin, has not spoken with any Middle Eastern nations since entering office in late January, including Israel.
Though while the White House said Israel should expect a call “soon,” the same cannot be said for Saudi Arabia.
“The President’s counterpart is King Salman, and I expect that, in appropriate time, he would have a conversation with him,” Psaki told reporters Tuesday, adding that she could not confirm when that call would take place.
Biden’s adverse stance to the crown prince is a shift from the previous presidency.
Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip as president and didn’t sour to the Arab nation after the killing of and Saudi Arabia native and U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a contributor for the Washington Post, was killed in 2018 by Saudi security officials, though the suspected ties to Mohammed bin Salman, also referred to as MbS, did not affect President Trump’s relationship with the crown prince.
Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to Trump, maintained diplomatic relations with MbS — who is believed to be the successor to his 85-year old father King Salman – working with him during the administration’s attempt to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel.
“This President … is not looking to the last presidency as the model for his foreign policy moving forward,” Psaki told reporters Tuesday.