Boris Johnson has called on the West to end its “addiction” to Russian oil, as he is set to travel to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to increase Britain’s fuel supply.
Johnson said that Western countries failed to sufficiently respond to Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and said that cutting out the use of Russian oil and gas was vital for “ending the bullying” from the Kremlin.
The Prime Minister has been looking for ways to reduce the high price of fuel, which reached $139 per barrel on Sunday. Johnson said:
“Bombs fall, the cost of oil and gas rises still further, meaning less money in your pocket.”
“I don’t doubt that there will be tough times ahead. The process of weaning the world off Russian oil and gas… will be difficult…We have to accept that such a move will be painful.”
Johnson also promised greater investment in renewables and nuclear, but his intentions to increase UK consumption of Saudi oil and gas were criticised as hypocritical, with many MPs calling on the Prime Minister to cancel the visit.
For more than a decade Yemen has been going through what the UN describes as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, claiming an estimated 377,000 lives. After Yemen collapsed into a civil war between the government and Houthi rebels, a Saudi-led coalition intervened in order to “stabilise” the country. However, the Saudi-led coalition has been accused of indiscriminately bombing civilians and bombarding cities.
The UK has already been criticised for its relationship with Saudi Arabia over the past few years for its continued sales of weapons to the country.
The Saudi Arabian administration came under fresh criticism this past week after it executed 81 people who the regime described as “terrorists” and adherents of “deviant beliefs”.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has been implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Those of a more cynical disposition have suggested that this shows the UK government’s opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is little more than opportunistic geopolitics as opposed to any legitimate dedication to human rights.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the government must see the “contradiction” in reducing dependence on Russian oil only to go and beg for scraps from “another murderous tyrant who executes his own people”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said:
“Going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not an energy strategy”.
While Alistair Carmichael, a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said:
“If the Prime Minister goes in the next few days to Saudi Arabia, we will be sending a very clear signal that we are not that bothered about this kind of thing.”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister insisted that:
“The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, in every country, as a matter of principle, and we routinely raise human rights issues with other countries including Saudi Arabia and will be raising Saturday’s executions with the government in Riyadh.”
Johnson himself later stated:
“I’ve raised all those issues many, many times – since I was foreign secretary and beyond and I’ll raise them all again today.”
“But we have long, long standing relationships with this part of the world and we need to recognise the very important relationship that we have.”
Ms Cengiz, fiancee of the late Jamal Khashoggi, said
“Johnson must demand to know the truth and to get justice for the brutal killing of Jamal and for all human rights abuses. He cannot act as though nothing has happened. This would be so shameful.”
Whether Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, whom Johnson is also visiting, will be willing to increase their oil supply to the UK is debatable, as both nations have traditionally maintained good relations with both Russia and the West, and such an action could be seen as siding with the West. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have declined US pleas to increase oil supply. Although the prospect of tapping into the oil market of Europe will undoubtedly be very tempting for the Middle-Eastern nations, they will need to decide whether it is worth risking their relations with Russia.