[Smokestack Diplomacy: Cooperation & Conflict in East-West Environmental Politics]

Article excerpt

MIT Press has added yet another excellent book to its series on Strategies for Sustainability and Institutional Innovation. Robert Darst examines three issues in which East-West relations have undergone serious shifts since the fall of the Soviet Union: pollution in the Baltic Sea, transboundary air pollution, and nuclear power safety. Though each is unique, they have in common the fact that the former Soviet-bloc states have demanded assistance in complying with the environmental management and safety demands of the West, even though the principal threat to environmental security is from within those states themselves.

Despite the common perception that the Soviet Union was unwilling to engage in even minimal environmental regulation, Russia and other post-Soviet states have been even less forthcoming unless Western states agree to help pay the costs. Indeed, Russia and Ukraine 'threatened to expose their more affluent neighbors to greater trans-boundary dangers in order to exact larger payments from them - a form of environmental blackmail never employed ... during the darkest days of the Cold War' (p 3). The case studies are well chosen and documented, span three decades, and reflect the author's eye for detail and refreshing methodological modesty.

The central question relates to the effectiveness and dangers of 'transnational subsidization,' aid designed specifically to reduce the environmental threats emanating from the transitional states. While there are cases in which assistance has been helpful - often aided by a legacy of environmental expertise inherited from the cold war - it also raises the prospect of continued dependence and an escalation of demands.

Darst does not attempt to cover a wide array of theoretical approaches to the issues, choosing to focus instead on the unintended consequences of transnational subsidization such as moral hazard, polluter life extension, and blackmail. …


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