Bob Menendez, the Democratic leader in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, demanded in a statement on Monday that the Biden administration halt arms shipments to Saudi Arabia until the oil-rich nation “reconsiders” its decision to cut the production of oil, which is seen as detrimental to the U.S. and supportive of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
According to Politico, the New Jersey senator vowed to use “all means at his disposal” to prevent Russia from obtaining materials and resources to support its “war machine,” including his authority as leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to unilaterally block executive weapon transfers. At a meeting on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia led the charge to cut production, which could allow Russia to further profit from its oil exports through the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Nations. President Joe Biden had pleaded with Saudi Arabia to allow an increase in oil production to lower high energy prices for the United States and western allies.
Menendez added, “Until the Kingdom reconsiders its stance with regard to the war in Ukraine, I will not approve any cooperation with Riyadh. I’ve had enough.”
According to Politico, Democratic senators have criticized Saudi Arabia as a treacherous allie and demanded a reduction in the number of American troops stationed there as an additional penalty.
Menendez declared, “There is clearly no way to play both sides of this battle – either you support him or you help the rest of the free world in attempting to prevent a war criminal from ruthlessly erasing an entire nation off the map. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made the awful decision—motivated by economic self-interest—to choose the latter.”
Hours after Russia resumed its aerial attack on at least 10 cities in Ukraine, which included the first strikes on the nation’s capital in months, Menendez made his statement, citing this as the primary reason for his decision to halt military deliveries.
Although Menendez’s pledge may make it more challenging for the administration to carry out its objectives, State Dept Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel stated on Thursday that the admin has “no intention” to limit arms shipments to the Kingdom.
Politico reports that while Congress has thought about ending arms deals with Saudi Arabia over a number of concerns, including the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, it has never done so because it feels that equipping the country advances U.S. security interests in the area.
In order to prevent aiding Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, Menendez tried to halt a sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2019 while the Trump admin was in office. However, the former president responded by issuing an emergency waiver to continue the sale.