Saudi Arabia: Kingdom of oil

Think tank: RUSI

Author(s): Dr Tobias Borck

November 7, 2023

This report from UK think tank RUSI analyses Saudi Arabia’s oil policy and how it interacts with the Kingdom’s domestic and foreign and security policies.

Tobias outlines how oil revenues – which have historically fuelled Saudi Arabia’s social contract – are now the indispensable source of funding for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda.

He notes that, although Vision 2030 ultimately aims at diversifying the Saudi economy, income from oil exports remains the all-important enabler of Saudi Arabia’s political and socioeconomic development in the absence of sufficient foreign direct investment. Tobias concludes that the Kingdom “feels that both its economic and security needs require it to diversify its international relations beyond its traditional reliance on the US and the wider West”.

Moving ahead, the UK and West’s ability to influence and effectively engage with Saudi Arabia on issues of energy, geopolitics and climate change will require policymakers to “refine and update their understanding – and moreover take seriously – [the Kingdom’s] own strategic calculus.”