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Biden is right to court the Saudis

Joe Biden with Mohammed bin Salman in July. Anadolu Agency/Getty

Autocrats have a habit of falling out, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Barely a decade into the Cold War, the Sino-Soviet alliance dissolved in a storm of “comrade-on-comrade hostilities”. It’s even worse when the ideologies don’t match: the ethno-nationalist hates the Marxist; “the cleric hates the colonel”; two theocracies of different denominations hate each other. The Second World War “Axis” of Germany, Italy and Japan was really anything but – the powers “rarely viewed each other as racial or civilisational equals”. From Hitler invading Russia to the Iran-Iraq War, what saved the liberal cause in the 20th century “was the elusiveness of a common front against it”.

America was always good at stoking these divisions – Richard Nixon famously chummed up with China “amid the Peking-Moscow rift”. And it must continue to do so. Joe Biden should ignore critics from the left and right about his rapprochement with unsavoury regimes: the fist-bump with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman this summer, for example, or a potential “overture to Iran”. Both of those countries could help ease the West’s energy problem, and both have “alternative suitors” in Russia and China. America’s success has always been, and will continue to be, founded on “exploiting the cracks within illiberalism”. Forget the ethical squeamishness: “the higher ethic is to win”.