Sixty years ago Allied forces were closing in on Nazi Germany and victory in Europe was just months away. For a week in early February, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at Yalta in the Crimea to discuss the shape of post-war Europe. The summit ended on February 11, 1945 and FDR departed for a rendezvous at the Great Bitter Lake, a waypoint along the Suez Canal in Egypt, with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud. The King, known as Ibn Saud, sailed from Jeddah aboard an American warship to the meeting with FDR. The two leaders’ focus was shaping the future relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Rachel Bronson, Director of Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the forthcoming book, Thicker than Oil: Ameica’s Uneasy Relationship with Saudi Arabia, recently spoke with SUSRIS about the meeting. In this conversation she provided the historical context of the meeting and perspective on the relationship that resulted from FDR’s and Ibn Saud’s rendezvous at Great Bitter Lake.