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Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia arrive for a meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palaceon on October 5, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

OPEC aims to cement its alliance with Russia and other non-OPEC producers, who have been jointly limiting output since 2017 in an effort to restore market balance. Less clear is what form that longer-term alliance might take.

One possible future: Via S&P Global Platts, "Russia is not seeking to become a member of OPEC, but will continue working closely with the producing group even after the ongoing supply cut agreement ends, Aleksey Texler, Russia's first deputy minister of energy, said Tuesday."

What to watch: I caught up in Houston with Helima Croft, a top analyst with RBC Capital Markets, who notes that while responding to the U.S. shale surge has helped bring OPEC and Russia together, the strategic implications are deeper.

  • A key relationship to follow is what she calls the good rapport between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Croft says:
"I look at the Russia-Saudi partnership and say, it’s becoming increasingly thicker than oil, and so I think it will be durable in terms of the market management and coordination going forward."“That, to me, is the bilateral partnership that will shape not only oil policy, but a whole host of strategic issues in the Middle East.”

Be smart: Croft says a key element is the "deep commercial relationship" developing, noting Aramco's interest in taking part in Novatek's Arctic LNG-2 project and other ties. She believes the Saudis may see an opportunity to show Russia that "potentially you should think of the Saudis as a better friend for you in the region" than Iran:

“I think there is a bit of soft power diplomacy that the Saudis are using as well with the Russians.”

Go deeper

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21 mins ago - World

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

Kamala Harris, the new left's insider

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images     

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

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  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

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