Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Poisoned by Gas: Domestic Networks and Energy Security Strategy in Ukraine

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Poisoned by Gas: Domestic Networks and Energy Security Strategy in Ukraine

Article excerpt

Traditional views of energy security hold that states without reserves of oil and gas should seek to diversify their supply, therefore reducing dependency on any one supplier. Conversely, this view also holds that states with large reserves are believed to use this advantage as political leverage over their consumers. However, empirically we observe a wide variation in energy security strategies by dependent states. While some states do choose costly diversification, this paper introduces a new concept of energy security strategy: active dependence. Under active dependence, states that are reliant on a single supplier of energy do not succeed at pursuing diversification policies, but rather focus on increasing ties with their main supplier state across a host of issues. This active dependence often manifests through a number of cooperative initiatives with their supplier state and favorable energy contract renegotiations. Given the extreme variation in consumer state behavior, what explains variation in the choice of energy security strategy in energy dependent states? Using the case of European natural gas dependent states in the post-Cold War period, I present a theoretical model that accounts for regional variation in consumer vulnerability and choice of energy security policy. I argue that two main variables contribute to the choice of either diversification or active dependence as an energy security policy: the presence of energy veto players and the presence of weak formal institutions. After presenting the puzzle and model, I provide a preliminary account of the origins of these variables. I then present a case study of Ukraine, with evidence gathered from primary and secondary sources, plus extensive regional fieldwork to elucidate the mechanisms of my theory.

I. Introduction

In January of 2009, Hungary, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria reported that the pressure in their gas pipelines had dropped. Soon, images of freezing Bulgarian pensioners were splashed across the news media along with accusations that following a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, Russia had completely cut off the gas supplies to all of Eastern Europe. The crisis highlighted the fact that many Eastern European states were and remain highly dependent on Russian gas supplies, with some up to 100 percent dependent on a single supplier: Russia.

On Russian gas supplies, with some up to 100 percent dependent on a single supplier: Russia. Although this was not the first time a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine caused fear amongst the European community about the strategic safety of their energy supplies, it became a lynchpin in the European project to push a cohesive energy security policy.

However, many European states have failed to diversify their supplies in the face of energy insecurity, including Ukraine, who has had its gas supplies shut off more than three times in the last decade. While secure and uninterrupted access to energy is crucial to state security, some states fail to formulate and implement these policies and remain subject to the whims of producing states. Instances abound of neighboring states with similar levels of dependence that have wildly different policies and relations with their main energy supplier. Lithuania, for example--a state that was previously entirely dependent on Russia for its natural gas supplies--has made great strides in decreasing its energy dependence and diversifying its energy security strategy. (1) However, its neighbor, Latvia, has neglected to formulate a cohesive energy security strategy that seeks to decrease dependence on Russia, its main supplier. What explains variations in the energy security policies of similarly dependent states?

Despite the obvious importance of international energy trade, conventional wisdom about energy markets dictates that outcomes arise on the basis of a realist market power trade-off between price and dependence. According to this logic, states attempt to get the best price possible for energy given their level of dependence on the producer state. …

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