Gave, Take Tour: Bin Salman’s European Visit Seeks Mended Credibility in Return for Oil
Story Code : 1007093
As part of this agenda, he recently visited Greece as his first European tour since 2018 and met with Athens leaders. His meetings witnessed him signing an agreement to form strategic cooperation council and a set of deals and MoUs. Among these agreements is the cooperation pacts in security, military, political, tourism, cultural and energy fields. As the Saudi officials said, at this meeting, Saudi Arabia committed to establish a green hydrogen center in Greece through which the country will become an advanced platform for energy in Europe. According to reports, the energy agreements between Riyadh and Athens are focused on the oil, gas and petrochemicals, oil demand sustainability, circular carbon economy, renewable energy, electricity, and artificial intelligence.
With regard to the geopolitical position of Greece, this country is the linking ring between West Asia and Europe, and from this point of view, it is of special importance for the Saudis. Given bin Salman's achievements during his visit to Greece, it can be said that the agreements signed in energy sector between the two sides represent good news for Europe at the current time that the West is struggling with the energy crisis. Since the Ukraine crisis, European countries have been looking to provide their energy needs with the help of partners like Saudi Arabia. Although they have not succeeded in getting the Saudis' green light so far, it seems that bin Salman's human rights cases have put him at the mercy of Europe which is ready to make compromises in return for oil.
Bin Salman's promises to meet Europe's oil needs during his trip to Greece come as Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago opposed the US request to increase oil production to reduce the price of fuel in the West. If Riyadh has really changed its energy policies after the Ukraine crisis to help balance and stability in the world energy markets, then it will make problems with Russia. Because for any change in the plan to increase or decrease oil production, the kingdom needs to persuade Russians as important partners. After the Ukraine crisis, the Saudis have adhered to the agreements reached with Moscow within OPEC+ framework, but if they want to make changes in their policies in the future, this action will bring a sharp reaction from the Russians.
From another aspect, if Riyadh increases its oil output, prices will go down and this is self-harm as it is in budget deficit because of eight-year Yemen war. Another important point is that if Riyadh wants to side with the West and deviate from the agreements with Moscow, this will cause Russia to lean towards countries like Iran to balance the energy markets. Considering that in recent weeks, Russia signed a $40 billion agreement to invest in Iran's oil and gas industry, if Saudi Arabia does not cooperate in OPEC+, Moscow will further strengthen its energy interactions with Tehran.
The strategic cooperation between Iran and Russia in energy can greatly affect the global markets due to their game-changing position in the world. Russia has always used the energy lever to punish European countries, and now if Saudi Arabia does not walk it, it has other options for surprise. Although the Saudis have made promises to the Greeks in providing energy needs, these promises do not seem to be fulfilled in practice, because Saudi Arabia is not willing to clash with Russia for relative balance in the energy market, as in its position in the Ukraine war, Riyadh was implicitly leaned towards the Russians and tried to stay away from the Russian-Western confrontation.
Riyadh-Athens cooperation agreements
Bin Salman's Greece visit is observable from another perspective. They signed security and military accords and this seems to mean that the kingdom plans arms purchases from Athens for further reinforcements to its military. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been highly vulnerable to Yemeni Ansarullah Movement's missile and drone attacks and has suffered many casualties. It is, therefore, trying to buy missile systems from some countries in order to neutralize Ansarullah's attacks in the future. Also, the Saudis want to involve the Greeks in their defense projects and this will enhance the quality of using the American-supplied Patriot missile defenses. This is highly welcomed by the Saudis.
Prince Mohammed's visit to Greece and then France comes two weeks after Biden's regional tour during which Washington walked back from the policy to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" for Khashoggi murder case. This sent a positive signal to bin Salman, motivating him to take steps to mend damaged ties with the West. Driven by this motivation, the crown prince is expected to arrange more European visits to end the monarchy's isolation and settle the Khashoggi scandal forever with the oil-thirsty Westerners.