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Saudi Arabia to Fund Ukraine?

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Never ashamed to beg, world traveler Zelensky landed in Jeddah to meet Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia has become the world’s leading oil exporter. Saudi Arabia has positioned itself relatively neutral, working with both Russia and Ukraine in recent years. Saudia Arabia has not stated whether it would join 90 other countries in Switzerland for upcoming peace negotiations, but Zelensky’s impromptu visit is raising eyebrows.

“In Saudi Arabia, I had a meaningful and energetic meeting with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We discussed bilateral relations between Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, noting the good progress on previous agreements and our teams’ effective cooperation. We will keep working together,” the Ukrainian president stated, later adding, “”Ukraine is grateful to Saudi Arabia for its support. We value His Royal Highness’ willingness to help restore peace sooner.”

Zelensky has been meeting with world leaders in recent weeks ahead of the summit in Switzerland. Saudi Arabia’s participation could be key in negotiations on behalf of Ukraine. Saudi Arabia invited 40 world leaders, including China, to a summit last August to discuss the war in Ukraine. Saudi has an opportunity to position itself as a stronghold and world leader in its unique “multi-polar” diplomatic approach to the war.

Saudi Arabia has benefitted from the war. It imports massive volumes of Russian oil at a discount and has been able to maintain crude exports amid OPEC+ mandated cuts. Saudia Arabia imported 2.86 million tons of oil from Russia in the first half of 2023 alone, importing only 1.63 millions tons for the entirety of 2022 in comparison. The nation has imported around 193,000 barrels per day from Russia in June, marking a 10x increase from last June. Saudia Arabia joined the BRICS partnership last January and its trade with Russia far surpasses its trade with Ukraine.

It would be in Saudi Arabia’s best interest for this war to continue. Saudia Arabia surpassed Russia for oil exports to China in 2023. The West is willing to buy marked up oil from Saudi Arabia simply to say they did not purchase it directly from Russia. The Saudis are focusing on domestic interests, similar to India, and are willing to arm and trade with both sides.