Trump’s Empty Threat to Stop Buying Saudi Oil

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is shown at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By John Kemp

LONDON, Nov 16  – President-elect Donald Trump is very unlikely to restrict imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia despite threats to do so issued during the election campaign.

Trump is first and foremost a showman and impresario rather than a policy wonk. Much of what he said on the campaign trail was intended to mobilise support rather than provide a detailed programme for government.

The media “never takes (Trump) seriously but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally,” as technology billionaire Peter Thiel observed in October.

The prospect of an import ban on Saudi crude is one of those things he said that should not be taken seriously but was meant to galvanise support from oil workers hit by the downturn.


Trump warned that he would be prepared to stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia unless the kingdom provided ground troops to fight Islamic State.

He also insisted the kingdom and other Gulf oil producers should compensate the United States for the enormous cost of providing them with military protection.

In fact he seemed preoccupied by compensation for U.S. military protection rather than ground troops.

“We are not being reimbursed for the our protection of many of the countries … including Saudi Arabia,” Trump complained in an interview (“Donald Trump expounds his foreign policy views”, New York Times, March 26).

“We protect countries, and take tremendous monetary hits protecting countries,” Trump said. “We lose, monetarily, everywhere. And yet, without us, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t exist for very long.”

Trump said the United States “desperately needed” oil from the Gulf a few years ago but now was on the verge of achieving energy independence thanks to the shale revolution.

The United States had found oil in places “we never thought had oil” with the result there is a glut with “ships out at sea that are loaded up and they don’t even know where to dump it”.

“They’re closing wells all over the place,” Trump said, presumably referring to marginally economic U.S. oil and gas wells being shut in owing to the slump in prices.

Trump has been supported by Continental Resources Chief Executive Harold Hamm, who acted as one of the campaign’s principal advisers and has been tipped as a possible choice as energy secretary.

Hamm has in turn been critical about Saudi Arabia’s and OPEC‘s role in the 1973 oil embargo and an evangelist for developing domestic oil and gas resources to provide energy independence

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