The Core of Bilateral Relations: USA and Saudi Arabia
History of the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East policy represents a constant change of various geopolitical doctrines. According to official sources, “The Nixon’s doctrine emphasized the value of the balance of power in the region between the two allies of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran, while the Carter’s doctrine limited the penetration of external forces in the region of the Persian Gulf” (“United States-Saudi Arabia Bilateral Relationship”). Relations and strategic alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia is one of the most important pilasters of the current world order. There is a strong desire of the present administration to find strategic counterbalances to the Arab monarchies, actually carrying out its expansion under the guise of fighting against dictatorial regimes in the region.
The USA’s main interest in Saudi Arabia has always been oil. Without it, the collaboration between these two countries could have been limited or absent at all. Most politicians consider oil the main point in the strong bilateral relations between America and Saudi Arabia. Despite the oil-trade cooperation, the two countries have mainly established good partner relations in the economic and military-political fields. Additional sphere of common interests is the joint efforts to combat international terrorism. The essay is going to investigate three main reasons of the U.S. – Saudi relations.
The bilateral relations of the United States and Saudi Arabia have very contradictory character and a long history. The starting point of the issue is the affirmation that Saudi Arabia is the main strategic partner of the United States in the region. It is not only the richest country in the region of the Middle East, which has vast oil reserves and is also a country with a privileged geopolitical situation. I would like to underline this argument as the most important in the bilateral relations between America and Saudi Arabia.
First of all, there are the main shrines of Islam and regional pipelines on the territory of the Saudi Arabia. The collaboration between two countries began in the early years of the 19th century with the oil question. Of course, it remains the strategic point even today, but the relations reached a new more complex level and became an integral part of the world’s stability. At that time, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait vast oil deposits were found. The famous scientist and geologist Everette Lee DeGolyer predicted that the Middle East in the next 20 years would become the most important oil-rich region of the world (Sarbu, 2014, p. 15). Of course, the significant lack of oil has caused concern in Washington, which created the ground to search its new sources in the world. However, in my opinion, it became the main reason not main concept of the relations.
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After the Yalta Conference, the President of the United States received a monopoly on the development of the Saudi fields of oil. In spite, of the United States’ exclusive rights for exploration, field development and the acquisition of Saudi oil, the country became the main protector of the Saudi Arabia in the region. It was beneficial for the USA, due to the conflicts with the military successes and the threat of Iran in the Middle East. The Saudi Arabia also had a great concern and preoccupied a lot about the issue of security in the Gulf. Thus, Saudi Arabia claims a leadership role in the Middle East and in the Islamic world in general.
According to a number of researchers and historical facts, the Arabian monarchy’s security depends heavily on American support and the supply of arms. There is a certain subordination of different directions of American foreign policy towards the Saudi Arabia also. Mainly it can be seen in the areas of energy, security, export of weapons, development of relations with the countries of the region, the interests in the Gulf States. In accounts of the American banks there are about a trillion dollars of Saudi’s funds (Nazer, “Making Amends in Saudi Arabia”, 2014). Approximately the same amount of Arab funds revolves on the security market of the United States. At the same time, America, which in recent years has successfully developed production of hydrocarbons in its own territory, in the foreseeable future, can almost completely eliminate from its import Saudi’s oil. Today, it is forced to purchase their energy commodities on tens of billions of dollars annually. So there is a strong economic interaction between Saudi Arabia and America, which mainly determines countries’ policy.
Besides, since the early 80’s, policy of the United States in the Gulf, has evolved towards a further strengthening of the American military presence in the region (“Saudi Arabia and the United States: Awkward relations”, 2014). The cooperation in the military-technical sphere is very important for the economies of both countries.
For the period of last 40 years, America remains the main partner of Saudi Arabia in the military-technical sphere. 80% of weapons, Saudi Arabia gets from American manufacturing (Nazer, “Making Amends in Saudi Arabia”, 2014). Moreover, the country recruits specialists from the United States to maintain military equipment and assist in the preparation of national military personnel. According to the Foreign Affairs, after the events of 1990-1991, Saudi Arabia on a permanent basis disposes the arm forces of the UN, specifically, the United States, Great Britain, and France (Nazer, “Making Amends in Saudi Arabia”, 2014). Saudi’s forces are one of the most modernized and developed fields in the state organization. It is the most important element in a society. At the same time, the country is not able to protect its territory against conflicts with stronger opponents. It explains the Saudi’s dependence on foreign military assistance, notably from the United States.
The struggle against terrorism is another factor in the relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Terrorism is one of the sharpest global problems the world faces today. From the end of the 20th century, the world’s media began to talk about a threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Over time, this threat has grown and has become a worldwide scourge, taking away the lives of thousands of civilians. Most people, according to Western society stereotypes, associate it with the Middle East and Arab countries. But both sides, the West and East are facing a real challenge to combat Islamic extremism. No one can win this victory alone. The leader of the struggle is the United States of America, while Saudi Arabia is its major partner. The country takes serious steps to contain global terrorism. It is known that Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative societies in the world. It has numerous claims against American influence in the country. However, countries have integrated strong relations for more than half a century.
According to the official site of the White House, in 1996, Saudi Arabia and the United States established a joint anti-terrorist Committee, which included representatives from the intelligence and legal bodies (“United States-Saudi Arabia Bilateral Relationship”). Those people, who support the position that Saudi Arabia is the main terroristic threat in the battle, have to remember that it was the first country that suffered terrorist attacks in the 1970’s. It was an explosion in the main mosque in Mecca in 1979 (“United States-Saudi Arabia Bilateral Relationship”). By continuous exchange of information and joint anti-terrorist activities, the country, in my opinion, assured the world in its intentions. However, the Saudi government has not shown the necessary determination in action against terrorist groups operating on its territory in the past. The main problem in the battle against terrorism is to identify the sources of its funding and then to eliminate them. A prominent Saudi businessmen and bankers, and sometimes even members of the Royal family, were accused in the financing of Al-Qaida. Thus, the anti-terrorism efforts of the country were not always clear. For example, in the 1995, in the territory of the Saudi Arabia, were the first terrorist attacks against American citizens (“Saudi Arabia and the United States: Awkward relations”, 2014). The Saudi authorities condemned these acts of terror, but many Saudis have expressed their displeasure with the presence of Americans on Saudi soil. Nevertheless, in 1994, Saudi Arabia has frozen the assets of a terrorist leader Al-Qaida by bin Laden and prevented his Saudi nationality. 20 September, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal’s meeting with J. Bush in Washington stressed that the terror directed against the Islamic world, as well as against the United States. Saudi Arabia expressed its intention to prevent a fight between Western and Eastern civilizations.
In general, Saudi Arabia’s relations with Western countries are determined by their mutual interest in strengthening economic ties, as well as political cooperation to ensure regional security. The Saudi Arabia has been always trying to maintain balance between Eastern and Western values and traditions. Saudi Arabia understands that the United States occupies a special place in the world. It could be the main factor of the collaboration. It is important to say the Persian Gulf represents a one of the most vital American strategic interests. The Saudi-American bilateral relations are a broad range of mutual interests. Parties need each other, and this situation is going to continue in the near future.
The U.S. – Saudi relations represent a complex system of collaboration based on common development of both countries for a long period. These relations have a strategic ground and long-term nature. Nowadays, America positions itself as the main partner of Saudi Arabia in the Western world. Their relationship is defined, first of all, by the fact that Saudi Arabia is a supplier of oil to the American market, as well as a financial supporter of its economy. However, the research defined three other more important reasons of the bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and America. There is a strong collaboration in economic and military sphere. Moreover, both countries are fighting successfully against terrorism. These are the main factors that determine successful cooperation of such different countries.