The U.S.-Saudi agreement, from fist-bump to embrace

The U.S.-Saudi agreement, from fist-bump to embrace


The relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spans over eight decades, marked by significant events such as the 1973 oil embargo and the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

  • Two iconic images capture the essence of this relationship: the 1945 meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, which established a foundational “oil-for-security” partnership, and the 2022 fist-bump between President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), symbolizing a more transactional partnership.
  • Amidst these historical ties, discussions are underway for a new Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) between the two nations, potentially reshaping their bilateral, regional, and global dynamics.


GS-02 (International relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • The U.S.-Saudi Agreement
  • Consequences of the Agreement
  • Effects on India
  • Benefits of the Agreement

The U.S.-Saudi Agreement:

  • Strategic Defense Pact: The proposed SAA aims to formalize the implicit alliance into a strategic defense agreement similar to the U.S.-Japan treaty. This would commit the U.S. to defend Saudi Arabia in case of an attack and provide advanced military equipment, including F-35 stealth fighters.
  • Nuclear Technology Transfer: Surprisingly, the U.S., a staunch non-proliferation advocate, seems willing to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. This marks a significant shift in U.S. policy towards the Kingdom.
  • Regional Stability: At the regional level, Saudi Arabia seeks a ceasefire in Gaza and progress towards a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is a crucial component of the SAA, reflecting Riyadh’s regional ambitions.
  • Recognition of Israel: In return, the U.S. wants Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations. This move could significantly alter the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.
  • Economic Cooperation: While the exact economic details are unclear, the SAA is expected to involve substantial economic cooperation. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are likely to continue their coordination in the global oil market, balancing cheaper energy needs with higher oil revenues.
  • Vision 2030 Projects: The agreement is likely to ensure that a significant portion of the projects under MbS’s Vision 2030 will be awarded to American companies, enhancing economic ties between the two nations.
  • Response to China: The agreement is partly a response to China’s growing influence in the region, exemplified by President Xi Jinping’s visit to Riyadh in 2022. The SAA aims to counterbalance this influence and reinforce U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia.

Consequences of the Agreement:

  • Geopolitical Realignment: The SAA could reimpose U.S. unipolarity in the Gulf and much of West Asia, boosting the confidence of pro-West regimes and potentially sidelining the Palestinian cause.
  • Bilateral Trust Issues: The past decade has seen a decline in trust between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Incidents like the 2019 attack on Saudi oil facilities and U.S. ambivalence towards Iran have strained relations, complicating the realization of the SAA.
  • Gaza Conflict: The ongoing Gaza conflict poses a significant hurdle to the SAA. Saudi Arabia’s reconciliation with Israel is politically sensitive, and progress on the SAA hinges on resolving the Gaza situation and advancing a two-state solution.
  • Economic Impact: The agreement could lead to increased economic opportunities for American companies through Vision 2030 projects, while also ensuring stable oil prices beneficial to both nations.
  • Global Oil Market: Continued U.S.-Saudi coordination in the oil market will be crucial. The SAA is expected to balance U.S. needs for cheaper energy with Saudi Arabia’s quest for higher revenues.
  • Regional Stability: If successful, the SAA could enhance regional stability, reduce the influence of non-state actors, and deter the involvement of rival powers like China and Russia.

Effects on India:

  • Regional Stability: A stable Gulf region under the SAA would be beneficial for India, ensuring the security of its energy imports and the well-being of its expatriate community.
  • Economic Opportunities: The SAA could open up new economic opportunities for India, particularly in collaboration with American companies on Vision 2030 projects.
  • Geopolitical Strategy: India’s Act West policy could be bolstered by the enhanced U.S.-Saudi partnership, facilitating better regional cooperation and economic integration.
  • Energy Security: Continued stability in the global oil market, supported by U.S.-Saudi coordination, would be advantageous for India’s energy security.
  • Diplomatic Leverage: India’s strategic partnerships with both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia could be strengthened, enhancing its diplomatic leverage in the region.
  • Trade and Investment: The SAA could lead to increased trade and investment opportunities between India, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., fostering economic growth and development.

Benefits of the Agreement:

  • Enhanced Security: The strategic defense pact would provide Saudi Arabia with enhanced security assurances, deterring potential aggressors and stabilizing the region.
  • Economic Growth: Economic cooperation under the SAA would spur growth, particularly through Vision 2030 projects, benefiting both American and Saudi economies.
  • Regional Influence: The agreement would reinforce U.S. influence in the Middle East, counterbalancing rivals like China and Russia and promoting stability.
  • Energy Market Stability: Continued coordination in the global oil market would ensure stable energy prices, beneficial for global economic stability.
  • Diplomatic Success: For the U.S., the SAA represents a significant diplomatic achievement, potentially aiding President Biden’s re-election campaign.
  • Geopolitical Reconfiguration: Recognition of Israel by Saudi Arabia could lead to a broader geopolitical reconfiguration, promoting peace and cooperation in the Middle East.


The proposed Strategic Alliance Agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia represents a significant shift in their bilateral relationship, with potential far-reaching consequences.

  • While it promises enhanced security and economic benefits, it also faces formidable challenges, particularly in the context of regional conflicts and bilateral trust deficits.
  • For India, the SAA could bring about increased regional stability, economic opportunities, and enhanced diplomatic leverage. As the negotiations unfold, the world will watch closely, anticipating the potential impacts of this pivotal agreement.