The Russia-Saudi Bromance

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The history of OPEC and how it came to wield such power is one of two entities. On one hand, is OPEC – a coalition of the world’s largest oil producers. On the other, America, and to a lesser extent Europe, dependent on the former for energy. It worked in the 1970s, when the oil shocks proved the potency of supply restrictions. In the decades since then, OPEC has lost a lot of power. Sources of oil and gas have diversified. The USA is now on track to be a net exporter of crude and natural gas. Europe is charging towards a future that diminishes the need for hydrocarbons. And OPEC is no longer the biggest boy in town; Russia is now the world’s single largest oil producer – and has been China’s top oil supplier for several years now.

Back in 2015, as the energy industry was grappling with the aftermath of plunging prices, Russia stated that it had ‘no intention of cooperating with Saudi Arabia.’ Yet, just last week, the Saudi King Salman visited Russia. A joint US$1 billion fund was announced to invest in energy projects. In the space of two years, Russia has gone from OPEC’s main competitor to an unofficial co-president, brokering the current supply deal that has been credited for keeping oil prices stable (or at least, not plunging).

With Donald Trump’s presidency in the USA, former allies and enemies are looking to form new alliances. Even Angela Merkel was forced to admit that the EU now had to consider ‘a future without the USA.’ For Russia, the American presidency has been extremely challenging to work with, especially with the recent Congress-led sanctions. This bites down hard on Russia’s ability to do business. With the EU also threading a delicate relationship, Russia has to find new friends…

 

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