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Biden: ‘Consequences’ for Saudis for OPEC cut

Biden: ‘Consequences’ for Saudis for OPEC cut

Newslooks- CNN- (AP)

President Joe Biden said in an exclusive CNN interview Tuesday that he believed it was time to “rethink” the US relationship with Saudi Arabia after the kingdom partnered with Russia to cut oil production, a rebuke after intensive White House efforts to prevent such a decision.

I am in the process, when the House and Senate gets back, they’re going to have to – there’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia,” Biden said.

The decision by the Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel to cut production last week prompted anger at the White House, where officials said Biden was personally disappointed by what they called a “shortsighted” decision.

President Joe Biden speaks at the Summit on Fire Prevention and Control in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. Biden is reevaluating the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia after the Riyadh-led OPEC+ alliance of oil producing nations last week announced it would cut oil production and as Democratic lawmakers call for a freeze on cooperation with the Saudis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The move, which came three months after Biden visited Saudi Arabia and met its de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has the potential to raise gas prices in the weeks ahead of November’s midterm elections.

FILE – In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to his presidential palace and offer him dinner, marking another step in the Saudi leader’s diplomatic rehabilitation less than four years after the killing of writer and critic Jamal Khashoggi. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP, File)

“Let’s get straight why I went,” Biden said. “I didn’t go about oil, I went about making sure that we made sure that we weren’t going to walk away from the Middle East.”

After reaching highs over the summer, gas prices had been steadily decreasing, providing Biden and his top aides a potent talking point in the lead-up to the elections.

But a combination of factors, including rising demand and maintenance at some US refineries, has caused prices to begin ticking back up. The OPEC+ decision is poised to aggravate those factors.

For Biden, the decision was a particular affront because of his efforts over the summer to repair ties with Saudi Arabia, despite the kingdom’s woeful human rights record and bin Salman’s role in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Joe Biden speaks with CNN's Jake Tapper during an interview Tuesday in the Map Room of the White House.
President Joe Biden speaks with CNN’s Jake Tapper during an interview Tuesday in the Map Room of the White House.Sarah Silbiger for CNN

Biden said that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” who nonetheless badly misjudged his ability to invade Ukraine and suppress its people.

“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told Jake Tapper as Russian bombardments on civilian targets in Ukraine signaled another turning point in the months-long war.

Coming as the conflict in Ukraine approaches its eighth month, the interview with Biden provided fresh insight into his thinking as top US officials watch the fighting unfold in Ukraine with escalating concern.

FILE – A medical worker runs past a burning car after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2022. The Russian missiles that rained down Monday on cities across Ukraine, bringing fear and destruction to areas that had seen months of relative calm, are an escalation in Moscow’s war against its neighbor. But military analysts say it’s far from clear whether the strikes mark a turning point in a war that has killed thousands of Ukrainians and sent millions fleeing from their homes. (AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna, File)

Biden, who warned last week the risk of “nuclear Armageddon” was at its highest level in 60 years, said in the interview that threats emanating from Russia could result in catastrophic “mistakes” and “miscalculation,” even as he declined to spell out how precisely the United States would respond if Putin deploys a tactical nuclear device on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Biden, his top officials and fellow Western leaders have spent the past several months debating what steps Putin may take as his troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden speaks at the Volvo Group Powertrain Operations in Hagerstown, Md., Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Whether Putin is acting rationally has been a subject of intense debate as leaders work to predict his next steps. While Biden said Tuesday he believed Putin himself was rational, he characterized the Russian leader’s aims in Ukraine – which Putin laid out in an angry speech as he launched the war in February – as ridiculous.

“You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech he made after when that decision was being made, he talked about the whole idea of – he was needed to be the leader of Russia that united all of Russian speakers. I mean, it’s just I just think it’s irrational,” Biden said.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during a meeting with the winners and finalists of the School Teacher of the Year national contest via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Putin, who turned 70 on Friday, has found himself increasingly cornered with his army suffering humiliating defeats in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing his mobilization order and rifts opening up among his top lieutenants. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Going further, Biden said Putin wrongly believed Ukrainians would submit to Russian invasion – a misjudgment that’s been disproved by fierce resistance inside the country.

“I think the speech, his objectives were not rational. I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden said.

Indeed, a counteroffensive launched by Ukraine last month was successful in retaking territory previously held by the Russians, including critical transportation hubs. The losses proved the latest major embarrassment for Russia, whose military has struggled over the course of the seven-month war.

People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. Multiple explosions rocked Kyiv early Monday following months of relative calm in the Ukrainian capital. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported explosions in the city’s Shevchenko district, a large area in the center of Kyiv that includes the historic old town as well as several government offices. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

This week, however, Russia launched one of its fiercest bombing campaigns since invading in late February. At least 19 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded across the country, as far away as the western city of Lviv, hundreds of miles from the war’s main theaters in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Asked whether he would meet Putin at next month’s Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, Biden said he didn’t see a good reason for a sit-down.

“It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about,” Biden said, adding if Putin wanted to discuss the jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner then he would be open to talking.

“But look, he’s acted brutally, he’s acted brutally,” Biden said. “I think he’s committed war crimes. And so I don’t, I don’t see any rationale to meet with him now.”

Biden speaks Tapper during the interview.
Biden speaks Tapper during the interview.Sarah Silbiger for CNN

Nuclear ‘mistakes’ or ‘miscalculation’

After Biden warned last week the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” was at its highest point since the Cuban Missile Crisis, he told Tapper he didn’t believe Putin would ultimately take that step.

“I don’t think he will,” Biden said when asked by Tapper whether the Russian leader would use a tactical nuclear weapon – a prospect US officials have watched with concern as Russian troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield.

“I think it’s irresponsible for him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine,” Biden added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during celebrations marking the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia, in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. The signing of the treaties making the four regions part of Russia follows the completion of the Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums.” (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Biden said even Putin’s threats have a destabilizing effect, and warned of the potential errors in judgment that could ensue.

“The whole point I was making was it could lead to just a horrible outcome,” he told Tapper. “And not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war or anything, but just once you use a nuclear weapon, the mistakes that can be made, the miscalculations, who knows what would happen.”

“He, in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon as if that’s a rational thing to do,” Biden added later. “The mistakes get made. And the miscalculation could occur, no one can be sure what would happen and could end in Armageddon.”

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the reproductive rights task force in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden refused to disclose what a US response would look like should Putin follow through on his nuclear threats. But he said the Department of Defense had proactively developed contingencies should the scenario come to pass.

“What is the red line for the United States and NATO, and have you directed the Pentagon and other agencies to game out what a response would be if he did use a tactical nuclear weapon or if he bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine or anything along those lines?”

“There’s been discussions of that, but I’m not going to get into that. It would be irresponsible of me to talk about what we would or wouldn’t do,” Biden said.

“Have you asked the Pentagon to game it out, though?”

“The Pentagon didn’t have to be asked,” Biden said.

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, top from left: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President of the European Council Charles Michel, second row from left, U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, third row from left, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss attend a video conference with G7 leaders and Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Biden interview was a few hours after meeting virtually with members of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, who heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the need to bolster his country’s air defenses amid the new Russian bombardments.

Zelensky told the meeting that “common efforts to create an air shield for Ukraine” must be intensified amid a barrage of Russian cruise missile and drone attacks.

White House officials have said the US is prepared to further bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, including through missile defense systems that Biden expedited delivery of over the summer.

Yet Russia’s intense aerial assault of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and on civilian infrastructure suggested Putin could be employing new tactics meant to terrorize Ukrainians as the winter approaches.

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