The Soviet Union ordinarily doesn't pop into mind as a major oil and
gas power, but it is the world's largest oil producer a nd has more
crude oil reserves than any nation except Saudi Arabia and more
natural gas reserves than any nation.
In addition to being self-sufficient in energy, the Soviet Union
is a major exporter and there is speculation it has been trying to
prop up prices of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
by raising the price of its own crude.
In the past month the Soviet Union has raised the price of Urals
crude three times, totaling more than $1.50 a barrel.
Oil and gas exports are a major portion of the Soviet Union's
foreign trade balance, accounting for 41.5 percent of all Soviet
exports in 1984 and more than 60 percent of its hard currency
receiptsfrom western nations, according to The RAM Group Ltd, of
In 1984, Soviet exports to non-communist nations totaled $17.6
billion. Exports to communist countries came to $18.6 billion.
The nation has an estimated 81 billion barrels of crude oil
reserves and 1,400 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves - more
than 43 percent of the world's total gas reserves, according to a
background paper by the RAM Group on the Soviet and Western Europe
The USSR's largest oil customers were East Germany,
Czechoslovakia, Poland, West Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Finland and
West Germany is its largest gas customer, buying $1.4 billion in
1984, the RAM study says. Czechoslovakia was second with $1.3
billion followed by Italy with slightly over $1 billion gas
Given the size of its gas reserves, the Soviet Union could easily
increase natural gas reserves by its industries and export more oil.
However, The RAM Group warns, "if the Soviet's oil situation
deteriorates to the point that they need to begin importing oil,
there is always the risk that they could decide to annex Middle
Eastern oil fields rather than paying for the oil."
In the event of another embargo as took place in 1973, Western
Europe would be vulnerable to interruptions in its oil supplies from
the Middle East and Africa and its oil and natural gas imports from
the Soviet Union. Even more so to sabotage or military attack on oil
production in the North Sea.
Ten years ago, Western Europe imported 97 percent of its oil from
the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, including the Soviet
Union. Today that reliance on imported oil has been cut to 70
percent through a combination of fuel switching, energy conservation
and increased North Sea production but includes 3.7 million barrels
from the Middle East out of a total 8.6 million a day.
Should another embargo occur, the United States, through the
International Energy Agency, would participate in sharing
arrangements "designed to reduce the economic leverage that any group
of producing countries could apply to consuming nations by an
embargo," the RAM paper says.
The International Energy Agency represents the United States,
Canada, Japan and industrialized nations in Western Europe. Since
1973 the members have made progress in shifting to alternative