Well-Oiled Diplomacy: Strategic Manipulation and Russia's Energy Statecraft in Eurasia

By Kesarchuk, Olga; Milicic, Nikola | Demokratizatsiya, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview
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Well-Oiled Diplomacy: Strategic Manipulation and Russia's Energy Statecraft in Eurasia


Kesarchuk, Olga, Milicic, Nikola, Demokratizatsiya


Well-Oiled Diplomacy: Strategic Manipulation and Russia's Energy Statecraft in Eurasia, Adam N. Stulberg. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007. 337 pp. $80.00.

In recent years, energy security has been high on Europe's agenda. The dependence on Russian gas and oil began to concern European countries when it became clear that Moscow's near-monopolistic position as an energy supplier has enabled it to interfere in other countries' domestic and foreign affairs. In Well-Oiled Diplomacy: Strategic Manipulation and Russia's Energy Statecraft in Eurasia, Adam N. Stulberg offers his understanding of how Russia's energy endowments translate into a source of influence over other states.

Energy supplies to Europe have turned Russia into a powerful regional and global player. What puzzles Stulberg is that, despite Russia's economic and geostrategic dominance in the post-Soviet space, it has "both succeeded remarkably and failed miserably at securing compliance across sectors and states throughout Eurasia" (14). Stulberg's well-written theoretical framework draws on numerous theories, such as rational choice, new institutionalism, and prospect theory, which by themselves are unable to account for the varied outcomes of Russia's attempts to reassert its presence in the region. Stulberg is dissatisfied with the theories that concentrate exclusively on inducement and coercion and points out the need to broaden the definition of "soft" dimensions to include international security by introducing the concept of strategic manipulation (1). Its essence lies in restructuring "a target's decision situation, alignment choices, and risks to maximize the appeal of a favorable outcome or minimize the appeal of an unfavorable" one (1). Thus, influence can be exercised even before the actual decisions are made by altering the decision-making agenda of the targets (6). The attention to risk in decision making allows Stulberg to go beyond rational choice's traditional emphasis on utility maximization. By analyzing Russia's standing in gas, oil, and nuclear sectors vis-à-vis southern NIS states, Stulberg argues that an initiator's market power in a specific energy sector and operation within a clearly delineated regulatory system at home enables it to shape a target's decision-making context in such a way that "strategic compliance holds out more favorable prospects than noncompliance" (37). The inability of a state to marshal one or both independent variables can lead to either defiance or mutual accommodation (14). In the debate about the influence of globalization on the state, Stulberg clearly stands on the side of those who argue that the state remains a relevant actor despite the increasing influence of other nonstate actors.

The book has a very clear structure; the argument is lucidly stated and flows well through the text. Stulberg is explicit about what he aims to do through his research. He is also meticulous in the selection and explanation of methodological tools he uses to answer his research question. The factual richness of the book is ensured by the process tracing in which Stulberg engages (57).

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