The other problem with Saudi Arabia presenting its tactic as a reaction to Russia is that it sets them up as opponents, and Russia will almost definitely come out looking like the winner. First, Putin and Russian energy minister Alexander Novak are tough and experienced in making difficult oil decisions. Those are not adjectives often used to describe Saudi King Salman, his son Mohammed, or another of his sons, the oil minister, Abdulaziz. Second, Russia can hold out, whereas Saudi Arabia has reasons to give in sooner and push OPEC to try to stabilize the market.

Saudi Arabia values the legitimacy of OPEC, because it gains much power from being the most influential OPEC member. Thus, Saudi Arabia will feel pressure to bring OPEC to a new production cut decision and to try to balance the market. This could come in June at the next meeting or possibly sooner at a special meeting. Moreover, the Saudi budget is strained with all of the monarchy’s centralized spending plans to improve the economy. Low oil prices could devastate the economy. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia listed its oil company publicly in December and pushed citizens to buy. About one fifth of all citizens bought shares, many taking loans to do so. Right now, Aramco shares are valued less than they were at the offering, and they are plummeting. Saudi Arabia needs to stabilize the oil market and faith in its own oil company or it will have a very disgruntled 20% of its population.

It seems quite likely that at some point, Saudi Arabia will feel pressured to do something to stabilize this market. The biggest question is how Saudi leaders will save face while doing it.