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Russia’s use of its vast energy resources for leverage against post-Soviet states such as Ukraine is widely recognized as a threat. Yet we cannot understand this danger without also understanding the opportunity that Russian energy represents. From corruption-related profits to transportation-fee income to subsidized prices, many within these states have benefited by participating in Russian energy exports. To understand Russian energy power in the region, it is necessary to look at the entire value chain—including production, processing, transportation, and marketing—and at the full spectrum of domestic and external actors involved, from Gazprom to regional oligarchs to European Union regulators.
This book follows Russia’s three largest fossil-fuel exports—natural gas, oil, and coal—from production in Siberia through transportation via Ukraine to final use in Germany in order to understand the tension between energy as threat and as opportunity. Margarita M. Balmaceda reveals how this dynamic has been a key driver of political development in post-Soviet states in the period between independence in 1991 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. She analyzes how the physical characteristics of different types of energy, by shaping how they can be transported, distributed, and even stolen, affect how each is used—not only technically but also politically. Both a geopolitical travelogue of the journey of three fossil fuels across continents and an incisive analysis of technology’s role in fossil-fuel politics and economics, this book offers new ways of thinking about energy in Eurasia and beyond.
No other scholar has the depth of knowledge of the economics, politics, and social issues surrounding post-Soviet energy that Margarita Balmaceda does. The amount and variety of evidence she brings together makes this manuscript a tour de force.
William Reisinger, author of Energy and the Soviet Bloc: Alliance Politics After Stalin
Russian Energy Chains is a magnificent achievement. Balmaceda breaks free of the conventional oil-focused narratives about resource dependence by looking beyond the power of central states to control supply and showing instead the complex interaction of opportunity and dependence all along the value chain from producer to consumer. There is nothing like it in the field—a must-read.
Thane Gustafson, author of The Bridge: Natural Gas in a Redivided Europe
An impressive book that provides deep insights into the value chain and the power and market structures behind it. Balmaceda has written a highly scientific book, but it is also a fascinating travelogue that follows the molecule from its Russian source to the end consumer in Europe. I wish the book many readers!
Kirsten Westphal, coeditor of The Political and Economic Challenges of Energy in the Middle East and North Africa
Russian Energy Chains glitters with fresh insight into the scores of links that bind molecular structure to international relations. With this book, Balmaceda reaffirms her place among the most creative scholars working on energy and politics today.
Douglas Rogers, author of The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture After Socialism
Balmaceda’s tour-de-force analysis of energy sector “value chains” illustrates the weaponization of fossil fuels and how the regimes of consuming countries are tempted into corruption and dependence. Only this kind of geopolitical travelogue of energy sources can reveal this level of complexity and nuance.
Catherine Wanner, editor of State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine