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Strategy, Security and Russian Resource Diplomacy


Sussex, M, Strategy, Security and Russian Resource Diplomacy, Russia and its Near Neighbours - Identity, Interests and Foreign Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, MR Freire and RE Kanet (ed), UK, pp. 203-222. ISBN 978-0-230-39017-1 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 The Author

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This chapter critically assesses Russian resource diplomacy as a core facet of its strategic policy. Whilst many excellent analyses of Russia's position as a producer nation exist in the burgeoning literature on energy security (Ebel and Menon, 2000; Nygren, 2007), the emphasis in current scholarship has focused significantly on security of supply. This is unsurprising given the current global power distribution, which sees a United States hegemon, a rising China and powerful European Union (EU) states in a potentially vulnerable position as client states of resource-rich nations. But dwelling on consumers in discussions on energy security overlooks important questions in relation to energy suppliers, especially those that seek to leverage their resources for maximum gain. Consequently in this chapter I ask whether Russia's choices in using its natural resources coercively, with particular attention to oil and gas, represents a sensible policy choice in that it advances Russian interests and helps to achieve its strategic policy objectives.

Following on from this I examine what Russia's behaviour tells us about its policy goals and future ambitions. By analysing Russian resource diplomacy at the regional and global levels I find - in common with other assessments - that the policy serves Russia's overriding determination to retain its great power status. In this respect it facilitates Moscow's local ambitions in terms of strategic geography, through buffer-zone politics and a geoeconomic policy of de facto empire maintenance. But I also suggest that at the global level Russia's behaviour is much more reminiscent of middle power diplomacy than that of the great power it continues to profess itself to be. The reasons for this are predominantly structural, stemming from Russia's loss of power and influence after the end of the cold war. Far from being an irrational attempt to secure influence, as some commentators might suggest (Blank, 2009), I argue that the use of energy as a muscular instrument of policy should not be surprising at all. This is because resource diplomacy, as part of an overall pattern in Russian strategy since the collapse of the USSR, is characteristic of significant continuity rather than change. As a result, it is incumbent upon other states, especially in the West, not to misunderstand Russian motivations or to perceive every regional demonstration of Russian interests as symbolic of a bellicose and aggressive global policy posture.

To make this argument the chapter proceeds as follows. First, I examine the global balance of power, in which Russia faces a number of hurdles to maintain its position - let alone emerge as a leading state in any new or emerging multipolar order - before turning to consider Russia's immediate area of vital security interest: the former geopolitical space of the USSR. Second, I evaluate Russia's regional approach to resource diplomacy, with specific emphasis on the vital geostrategic Central Asian region. Third, I demonstrate that on the global level, Russian resource diplomacy is best interpreted as an instrument to maximise Russian gains from a position of weakness rather than strength. I conclude by offering some observations about the implications of a Russian strategy that appears neo-imperial in its local context, but is essentially attempting to 'punch above its weight' in Moscow's dealings with more powerful actors.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Political science
Research Field:International relations
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:International relations
Objective Field:Defence and security policy
UTAS Author:Sussex, M (Dr Matthew Sussex)
ID Code:78534
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Government
Deposited On:2012-07-05
Last Modified:2017-10-16

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