Saudi Arabia's oil production agreement with Russia was opportunistic at first, but it is now the foundation for a broader relationship that has the potential to reduce already waning U.S. influence in the Middle East.
Experts note that Russia has relationships with many powers in the Middle East and is the only one that can deal with everyone, including Israel, Iran, Syria and even Hamas and Hezbollah. The United States, on the other hand, is at odds with Syria and has increasingly chilly relations with Iran.
It was the United States, ironically, that drove Russia and Saudi Arabia together in the first place, with the surprising rise of an oil sector that is now producing record-high volumes, last seen in 1970.
With the cut in Saudi production, the United States' still-growing output of 10 million barrels a day is now more than Saudi Arabia's and catching up to No. 1 producer Russia. Even with this surge, the United States is still reliant on about 8 million barrels a day of imports, some of which come from Saudi Arabia.