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Research Dossier → Energy Security and Cooperation in Eurasia: Power, Profits and Politics

Energy Security and Cooperation in Eurasia: Power, Profits and Politics
Energy Security and Cooperation in Eurasia: Power, Profits and Politics
17 Jan 2018 20:43photo: https://kyotoreview.org/yav/energy-security-southeast-asia-t

Energy relations between states have become an increasingly salient issue of global security given the advent of energy as a political weapon, the development of new technologies to transport and produce energy, and the lasting importance of energy in international trade due to global imbalances. In order to make sense of the overlapping influences of geopolitics, profits, and interest groups in shaping such relations, Ekaterina Svyatets advocates a more nuanced multidimensional framework that considers the various motives in a given case. In her recent book Energy security and cooperation in Eurasia: power, profits and politics, Svyatets examines historical and contemporary energy relations in three specific cases to determine which prevailing theories of international relations can best explain the degree of cooperation in each instance. The cases studied are relations between post-Soviet producers and Western consumers: the United States and Russia, Germany and Russia, and the United States and Azerbaijan. Svyatets seeks to answer why bilateral energy relations vary so dramatically between the three cases, ranging from mutually beneficial profit maximization [Germany/Russia] to geopolitical animosity [US/Russia]. The work provides a significant analysis of the three cases and presents a convincing argument for the importance of a multidimensional approach to energy relations, but it fails to satisfactorily provide a multilevel component in the framework to explain which single motive takes priority.

The book begins with a discussion of the three major approaches in the international relations literature that have been used to understand energy cooperation thus far: realism, liberalism, and domestic politics. Realism posits that cooperation in energy is solely determined by the predominant security considerations and the geopolitical position of the state. On the other hand, liberalism contends that potential economic advantages of trade and investment in energy will prevail over geopolitics and subsequently reduce the risk of confrontation. Finally, domestic politics theory advocates for the influence of lobbies and interest groups in shaping state policies toward energy. In this work, Svyatets seeks to overcome these fragmented approaches and develop a more integrated framework of all three theories to understand international energy relations. The author is certainly correct in her advocacy for a perspective that can address the numerous motives and dimensions of energy relations instead of seeking a single explanatory variable. However, one might ask why Svyatets does not also consider the implications of other relevant theories such as constructivism in her analysis of energy relations. A constructivist approach may in particular help explain relations between the United States and Russia given their historical animosity and subsequently distorted perceptions of security threats in foreign control of domestic business. The two states do not always struggle solely with material or security competition but also with deep-rooted suspicions and protectionism. Thus, a more complete approach should take into consideration other lines of international relations thinking to address ideological causes as well.

The work then introduces the three cases to test the relevant applicability of each theory, examining energy relations between the cited countries since the post-Communist transitions in the 1990s. In relations between the United States and Russia, Svyatets notes the rises and falls in cooperation over the past two decades, spanning from the low geopolitical tension and high degree of trade and investment during the 1990s through the deterioration of relations following the resurgence of Russia under Putin amid increased oil revenues as well as NATO expansions, the Iraq War, the Russo-Georgian War, and more. …