Johnson defends Saudi trip as part of plan to reduce Russia’s oil influence

Boris Johnson said the West had to wean itself off Vladimir Putin’s oil and gas.

15 March 2022

Boris Johnson defended his controversial visit to Saudi Arabia by stressing the need for countries to move away from Russian oil and gas.

The Prime Minister is due to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hope the Gulf state can increase its production of fuel supplies to make up for reduced reliance on Vladimir Putin’s country.

The trip comes just days after Saudi Arabia executed 81 people and with Saudi Arabia still the subject of international outrage following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

But Mr Johnson insisted he had to build a coalition of countries to help the West reduce its dependence on Mr Putin, likening the Russian leader to a drug dealer who had got the West hooked on his hydrocarbons.

Newcastle United takeover
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to hold talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Prime Minister said: “I think that we’ve got a global crisis in which its obvious that the Russian aggression in Ukraine has helped to trigger a spike in the price of hydrocarbons, a spike in the price of oil.

“It’s vital – if we are going to stand up to (Vladimir) Putin’s bullying, if we are going to avoid being blackmailed by Putin in the way that so many western countries sadly have been, we have got to get ourselves off Russian hydrocarbons.”

That meant “we need to talk to other producers around the world about how we can move away form that dependency”.

Pressed on whether the shift away from Russia meant dealing with other unpleasant regimes, Mr Johnson said: “We want to build the widest possible coalition to ensure that we focus on what is happening in Ukraine, the effect that is having on the price of oil and gas.”

He said the West had to “learn our lesson” by breaking away from its links to Russia.

“Listen to what all the other European countries are now saying.

“Three weeks ago, they wouldn’t have said that was possible. A month ago before the invasion, everybody was saying, ‘Oh, no, we’ll get we’ll never be able to do it’.

“Now, after what Putin has done in Ukraine, you’re seeing European colleagues step up to the plate and say ‘Right, this is the time we got to learn our lesson as the West, we’ve got to end that dependency on Russian hydrocarbons’.

“And that’s one of the reasons I’m going out to the Gulf.”

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said that due to the need to move from Russia, the Prime Minister had to hold the talks this week, despite concerns over human rights abuses and the use of the death penalty.

“The UK’s position on the death penalty is long-standing and principled – we oppose the death penalty on principle, we have communicated that to Saudi Arabia,” he told Times Radio.

Mr Cleverly said the UK is also urging China to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions.

US officials believed China has signalled to Russia that it would be willing to provide military support for the campaign in Ukraine and financial backing to help stave off the impact of severe sanctions imposed by the West.

Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “What we’re saying to all countries is that they should denounce this unprovoked illegal attack into Ukraine by Russia.

“They should not in any way be supporting Russia, and we urge countries to join the UK and the international community in condemning and sanctioning Russia to choke off the finances which are funding Putin’s war effort.

“There is no justification at all for this attack, and we urge China and all countries around the world to denounce it and absolutely not to support it.”

Mr Cleverly said the UK has not had any statements from China denouncing the invasion.

James Cleverly
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the UK has not had any statements from China denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said that if China wants to be a “global player”, it “needs to play its part in making the world safer”.

“It needs to stand up to Russian aggression,” she told Sky News.

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