TOPSHOT - A handout picture released by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 15, 2022, shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) bumps fists with US President Joe Biden at Al-Salam Palace in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. (Photo by Bandar AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / MEDIA OFFICE OF MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN /BANDAR ALGALOUD" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

They were pithy words. “Let me be clear that the United States will remain an active, committed partner in the Middle East,” Biden said at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The US President combined his message with a clear statement: “We will not go away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran.”

That sounds like determination and a return to a region that the United States hardly pays any attention to. However, it is probably too late for that. The vacuum created by the superpower’s move towards the Pacific region in the Middle East has long since been filled by geostrategic rivals.

Both Moscow and Beijing are increasing their influence day by day. Weapons are delivered, gas and oil are distributed and anti-Western alliances are forged. America remains there only as an extra.

Even the basic tenor of Biden’s trip shows Washington’s dilemma relentlessly: the US President came as a supplicant. The actual destination of his tour was not Israel, but oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

The UK is in demand as an energy supplier, as a country that could help the USA lower the price of gasoline and thus help Biden by increasing production volumes. But the Gulf monarchy let the 79-year-old rebuff. There were vague declarations of intent, but no concrete commitments.

How strength grows from America’s weakness elsewhere is also shown by the heir to the Saudi throne. Until recently, Mohammed bin Salman was rightly pilloried for being responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden himself had called him a pariah.

This is not forgotten, but basically forgiven. Saudi Arabia is too important as a producer of black gold. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine made the desert state a sought-after partner again in no time at all. One who is very aware of his importance. On the subject of human rights, the crown prince coolly let the guest from Washington know that “imposing values” would be counterproductive.

Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin and China’s ruler Xi Jinping don’t even bother to ask such questions, which bin Salman finds annoying. That makes both of them easy negotiating partners for the Saudi crown prince. Especially since the three gentlemen are united by their autocratic attitude.

And Biden? Will soon be a thing of the past in the Middle East. On Tuesday, Putin, who is really powerful in the region, is traveling to Tehran. There it will be about weapons and alliances. For America there is no more than a seat on the spectator bench.