Behind the Headlines: Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Russia

THREE THURSDAYS, FEBRUARY 1 AND 8, 6:00–7:30 P.M. (IN PERSON), AND 15, 12:00–1:30 P.M. (ZOOM).







FEBRUARY 1 (In Person): Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and the only country to consistently maintain spare oil production capacity, which it reserves for reducing turmoil in global oil markets. This lecture covers the factors that have put Saudi Arabia into the leadership position in the oil market and how that role has created a close working relationship with Washington. It will also cover the country’s geopolitical importance in the Middle East. Jim Krane, of Rice University’s Baker Institute, will examine the factors that could undermine the Saudi role and U.S.-Saudi relations. Mr. Krane is the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, where he specializes in energy geopolitics with a focus on the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. He is also an award-winning journalist who reported from the Middle East for more than five years, writing for numerous publications including the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Financial Times. He has written two widely acclaimed books on the Middle East, one on Dubai and the other a definitive study of energy demand and political survival in the Gulf region.

FEBRUARY 8 (In Person): “Mexico in 2024: A Watershed Year for the Country’s Future”: There are no two countries more intertwined in their affairs than Mexico and the United States. The year 2024 is likely to be another demonstration of how complicated their binational relationship is, as both countries will hold general elections. Featured during the campaigns will be the issues of trade, nearshoring, and the state of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement; immigration and human mobility; border governance collaboration; security drug trafficking, especially fentanyl; and other key issues affecting bilateral relations. Tony Payan, of Rice University’s Baker Institute, will discuss each of these themes, contextualizing them around the presidential elections of Mexico in June and of the United States in November. Mr. Payan is the Françoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for Mexico Studies and director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. He is also a professor of social sciences at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, Mexico. He is the author of many books, articles, and edited volumes, including The Future of U.S.-Mexico Relations: Strategic Foresight that offers policy recommendations on key issues such as trade, immigration, the environment, drugs, health, and security. Mr. Payan is also a member of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Immigration Task Force and the Mexico Energy Task Force.

FEBRUARY 15 (Zoom – not recorded): On the two-year anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, Matthew Rojansky returns to the Houston Seminar via Zoom to discuss what it has meant for the protagonists and their allies and adversaries, what the challenges have been for the United States in Europe’s biggest and bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, and what the future may hold. Mr. Rojansky is president and CEO of the U.S.-Russia Foundation, a private grant-making foundation established to promote the development of a healthy and independent private sector and the rule of law in Russia. In his work with USRF, Mr. Rojansky stands with brave Russians who continue to speak out against the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine despite increasing repression. That support includes grants to Russian independent media, human rights defenders, and civil society, including those who are now in exile outside Russia. He previously served as Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute and as deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he founded Carnegie’s Ukraine Program.


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