With the consumer price inflation reaching 9.1 per cent, a 40-year high and the energy price rising 42 per cent, the incumbent US president is not definitely in a good shape when he undertook his four-day Middle-east tour. Though the tripstarted with the visit to Jerusalem making fresh commitment of solidarity with this all-weather ally and extending more aid to the Jewish state of Israel, it is nothing especial as it is part of the ritual that every US president has to perform.
But visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and meeting with the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, in particular, was indeed eating humble pie on Joe Biden's part, if only for his previous stance on MBS for the latter's alleged role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during the presidential election.It may be recalled that he used harsh word for the crown prince on the election campaign trail. After becoming president he won't even speak to him.
Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump, Biden was thought to be an avowed advocate of the high principles of democracy, human rights, justice and so on that his party stands for. Even a few weeks before the visit, he said he won't meet MBS. But all such prior postures proved to be hollow when he finally arrived in Jeddah and fist-bumped the crown prince at the royal place.
Evidently, principles are good to make a point when one's vital interests are not at stake. But when they are, sheer self-interests, in this case, those of national ones, of course, get the upper hand. It has always been the case and Biden has been no exception.The energy price has to be brought down in the home market as well as in the international market. So, Saudi Arabia whose real power is in MBS's hand, has to be made to pump more oil into the world market to arrest galloping fuel oil price.
Meanwhile, sanctions imposed by him (President Biden) on the world's biggest producer of oil, Russia, in the wake of the Ukraine war has only made matters worse for global energy market. But will Saudi Arabia or its crown prince listen to Biden? Ironically, Saudi Arabia itself imports oil from Russia to free up crude for export as well as power generation. Small wonder that the Saudi crown prince could commit an increase of only 13 million barrel per day.
In truth, it is the self-contradiction of the US and its other western alliesand their power play on the global stage that cuts both ways is the source of the latest uncertainties in the world food and energy market. Slapping a raft of sanctions on Russia to cripple its economic ability to continue invasion of Ukraine has actually boomeranged triggering unrestrained inflation setting in recessionary trend in the western economies themselves including that of US. Thedeveloping and least developed economies, on the other hand, are on the verge of a precipice.Sri Lanka is, perhaps, the first such victim. Other economies with weak underlying fundamentals are on the line.
There has been a blame game going on over the severe financial crisis brewing across the globe. Even so, none of the big powers seems to be ready to take the leadership role to get over the crisis for fear of, perhaps, losing face. Or maybe even worse! Some may be willing to see that the war is the end of one side or the other in the war now raging in Ukraine! But if one is to go by history, things often take an unexpected turn.The World War I provided such an instance. For it was when the world saw its last decisive conventional war.