The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will travel to Russia on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin, with energy and war likely to be high on the agenda.
The announcement on UAE state news agency WAM on Monday came less than a week after OPEC+, a group of oil producers that includes the UAE and Russia, agreed to severe cuts in oil production despite US pressure.
The plan is to slow production by two million barrels per day — the biggest cut in supply since 2020.
The presidents will also meet as the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens the world’s energy supply.
“During his visit, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed will discuss friendly relations between the UAE and Russia as well as a number of regional and international issues and developments of common interest with President Putin,” the WAM report states.
The cut in oil production by Saudi-led OPEC and its Russian-led allies has further strained relations between Washington and its traditional Gulf allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, sources say.
The White House proposed reviewing its ties with Saudi Arabia last week to look for ways to reduce OPEC’s control over energy prices.
Explosions have shaken Kiev during the heaviest rocket attacks on the Ukrainian capital since the start of the Russian invasion.
President Putin says it is retaliation for the damaged Kerch bridge in Crimea ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/tefj2kb5rf
— CNN Breaking News English (@AJEnglish) October 10, 2022
UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazroui said the production cut was “technical, not political.”
US President Joe Biden’s administration had pushed hard to prevent this, hoping to keep gas prices under control ahead of the November elections, in which his Democratic Party could lose control of Congress.
Biden flew to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a Gulf summit in July to try to improve ties with Saudi Arabia but left without concluding a deal for higher oil production. Relations between the Kingdom and the Biden government have been strained since taking office.
The UAE has maintained a neutral stance towards Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Emirati presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said in March that the Gulf state believes “taking sides would only lead to more violence,” and that his priority was “to encourage all parties to take diplomatic action.”
The UAE is a long-time ally of the US, and its stance on the Ukraine conflict reflects an attempt to balance ties in a new world order under which Moscow and Beijing are equally important to the Gulf state, analysts say.
In the meantime, the production cut by OPEC+ could lead to a recovery in oil prices, which have fallen from 120 months ago to around 90 USD per barrel.
Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ members have announced that they will prevent volatility instead of targeting a specific oil price.
US officials are considering releasing 10 million barrels of oil from the country’s strategic oil reserve over the next month to “protect American consumers and promote energy security.”