Russian Energy Policy in the Middle East

By Barmin, Yury | Insight Turkey, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

Russian Energy Policy in the Middle East


Barmin, Yury, Insight Turkey


Soviet Energy Overtures to the Middle East

Despite the USSR's abundance of energy resources, historically this factor has not been the dominant one in the country's foreign policy Traditionally driven by ideology and often lacking in pragmatism, Soviet foreign policy has typically attempted to counter Western "imperialistic" expansion, with the Middle East being the primary battleground for ideological face-offs. With regional states leaning toward one or the other of the political camps during the Cold War, the USSR's strategy in the Middle East focused on winning the allegiance of local elites, and although various instruments were employed, energy was rarely one of them.

The "pre-oil era" in the Middle East was marked by paradoxical political developments that seem nearly impossible today For instance, the communist Soviet Union enjoyed a warm relationship with the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, and became the first state to recognize it, while Moscow's envoy to the Kingdom, Karim Khakimov, was a personal friend of its founder Ibn Saud. Soviet-Saudi relations turned sour after Khakimov was executed in Moscow, which happened two months before the discovery of the largest deposit of oil in the world in March 1938 in Saudi Arabia. Arguably, had the Soviets not killed their sole link to the Saudi King and by extension to his gigantic oil wealth, the Middle East might well look very different today.

Competition with Western firms for oil concessions first in Saudi Arabia and later elsewhere in the Gulf was impossible due to both the nature of the Soviet state-owned planned economy and the lack of proper technology. Moreover, it was not until after the Second World War that the Soviet Union started realizing the export potential of its own oil industry. During the Cold War, the irony of the Soviet policy in the Middle East was that the monarchies that welcomed Western energy giants had no interest in dealing with the Soviet Union, while the autocratic states, some of which were essentially Soviet clients, nationalized their own energy industries.

However, it would be incorrect to argue that there is no linkage between Soviet energy policy and the Middle East. The oil embargo imposed by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1973 is evidence of that. A response to the U.S. support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the oil exports embargo led to an oil glut and saw crude prices jump from $3/barrel to $12/barrel. This rapid political decision by the Arab states led Moscow to fundamentally reassess its own energy policy.

After the end of the Second World War, despite its modest oil production rates, the Soviet Union took the responsibility of supplying the countries of the Warsaw Pact with energy. For the purpose of pumping oil to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany, the Soviet Union constructed an oil pipeline called Druzhba (Friendship). The oil crisis of 1973 marks the moment when this policy changed. Following the imposition of the oil embargo, the Soviet Union with its vast energy resources came into the spotlight as a potential source of energy for Western Europe. Moscow and OPEC launched a round of talks aimed at getting Soviet energy policy aligned with that of the Arab oil-exporting states. However alluring the opportunity to blackmail the West may have been, the Soviet Union chose a more pragmatic path and came to replace Arab oil exports in Europe; after all, unlike the Warsaw Pact states, Western Europe was ready to pay U.S. dollars for oil imports. (1) The 1973 oil crisis marked an expansion of Soviet energy exports to Western Europe but also signified increased competition with the Gulf States for a share of the global energy markets. Because the Soviet Union was producing oil en masse and the Soviet system kept labor costs low, Russia was able to sell its crude at prices almost 50 percent lower than oil from the Middle East. (2)

Although the embargo was over by March 1974, it solidified a new status quo in the energy market that resulted in the Soviet Union becoming the worlds largest oil producer by 1980. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Russian Energy Policy in the Middle East
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.