Russian Energy Politics and a Changing Europe

By: Harrison Potter, `14

Harrison Potter, `14
Harrison Potter, `14

Upon the fall of the U.S.S.R. in the late 80s and early 90s, George H.W. Bush was president and Walkmans were quite popular. Though that was a quarter century ago, as a family friend who grew up in the Soviet Union says regarding Russia, “Putin may use the CD instead of phonograph, but they are still playing the same song”.

On that note, I am researching Russia’s energy dominance over Europe and how it affects western, and more specifically American, foreign policy. Russia holds enormous power through its oil and natural gas resources. Through being a primary energy source for many countries, it can use that leverage to affect change through energy-based foreign policy. With their expanding leverage over having the power to shut off oil and gas supplies to former Soviet-bloc countries, it is conceivable that Putin and his administration are looking to expand their political influence back into the governments of those countries. Such expansion, whether simply through remote power or actual territorial expansion, has serious implications for U.S. foreign policy and might re-ignite the Cold War.

In my thesis, I question how Russia is using energy to gain political and economic concessions from its neighboring states, and what effect those actions have on American foreign policy.  Through seeking answers to these questions, I am looking to shed light on a Russia that is perhaps looming larger over the international scene than many realize.

Russian Energy Politics and a Changing Europe

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