STRATEGIES OF ENERGY AND SECURITY IN CONTEMPORARY EURASIA: VULNERABILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN RUSSIA’S ENERGY RELATIONSHIP WITH EUROPE, CENTRAL ASIA, AND CHINA

Few topics are more susceptible to heated public debate than the risks associated with the energy sector and energy security. Public debate on energy issues is often made yet more convoluted by the fact that political scientists from government and think-tanks not only have a different outlook and employ different analytical methods than industry analysts, but often indeed prefer to discuss with each other rather than with representatives of the industry. The present paper aims to bridge the divide by focusing on Russia’s energy relationships with Europe, Central Asia, and China. In the transition from the command economy of the Soviet period to the market economy of the present, the Russian energy industry gradually changed its strategy. Central Asia is no longer seen merely as a source of cheap energy; market relations have entered the picture and with them the understanding of the need for mutual economic development. Yet competition and geopolitical rivalry remain, in particular with regard to the final destination of the energy produced in the region. China, the European Union, and the United States all have interests to safeguard. Besides, Russia’s long-standing energy relationship with Central Asia should no longer be taken for granted. A number of variables known to industry analysts but less familiar to political scientists are changing the world of commerce. Unconventional oil and gas deposits have the capability to change the global market for oil and gas, since they, like coal, are more widespread than conventional oil and gas reserves. Climate change is affecting the profitability of new and existing oil and gas fields, and will affect transportation routes. The future use of nuclear power is in doubt in several countries, which means that other sources of energy will be needed. Refinery capacity is becoming a limiting factor which will affect the global trade in oil products. These variables form new vulnerabilities and opportunities in the quest for viable strategies for energy and security in contemporary Eurasia.

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