Energy as a Weapon

Russia has utilized the same strategy for decades in order to keep its influence among neighboring countries.  Russia’s strategy uses subsidized oil to lure economically weak states into business with Moscow.  Once a country gets accustomed to the cheap energy prices provided by Russian oil fields, they have no choice but to accept the influence and baggage that comes along with guaranteed cheap and reliable energy.  Such baggage includes a pro-Russian tilt to their domestic and foreign policy decisions or they may be ‘asked’ to participate in large joint military style exercises, such as the ‘Zapad’ drills held in Western Military District.

As you can see from this map below, Russia holds considerable power and influence over many countries in its near abroad, but also maintains considerable reach into Western Europe.

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Taken from a CRS report. 2013

 

Russia has used its power several times over the past decade in Ukraine (multiple times) and Europe.  A large amount of Russia’s oil and gas flows through Ukraine and Belarus on its way to Europe, making these countries especially important.

When Russia uses its massive oil and natural gas reserve to inflate or deflate the price of energy there can be unintended consequences .  Countries that buy energy from Russia are often left feeling anxious due to their unavoidable and unfavorable relationship they must now  endure with Moscow.  As was seen in Ukraine in 2014 and now today in Belarus when a country is taken advantage of through oil and energy markets they are more likely to try and pivot away from Russia to reestablish their sovereignty rather than work with Moscow.

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