Strategic ''castling'' on Eurasia's energy map: Russia's natural gas strategy enhancement

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: King’s Russia Institute


This PhD research argues that in the last two decades the complicated Eurasian energy dynamic has undergone a fundamental structural change, which has led to the ''regrouping'' of its main actors' strategies, policies, and regional approaches. In the rapidly changing regional context, where interests and conflicts are interwoven, the enhancement of the Eurasian actors' strategies and bargain capacity is what has become relatively more important than maximising their traditional realist power. Strategy in this sense includes not only to balance the power, to find a way to cherish mutual interests, to tackle security issues, to maximise market gains and revenues, to establish a successful management and overcome financial instability, but also to turn all of that into relative power. Thus, in the context of this complicatedly nuanced and dynamic environment, to understand states' strategising and analyse changes in states' strategies the traditional single-theory approaches should be substituted with an interdisciplinary approach encompassing all of the above-mentioned factors within their interactions.

As exports of strategic commodities, such as natural gas, both influence and are influenced by the interplay of domestic and international economic, political and security factors, the analysis of energy, and in particular gas, strategy has become the focus of this research. The case study looks into one of Eurasia's fundamental energy pillars, and also key political and security actor, Russia, and its natural gas strategy from the early 2000s onward. It uses an interdisciplinary approach combining International Political Economy (IPE) with negotiations theory. Through a multi-level vertical and horizontal method, the analysis ''dissects'' Russia gas strategy into three levels: domestic; regional; and international, and examines the dynamics of each level. Finally, it integrates the three levels into a comprehensive strategic analysis.

The research argues that changes of Russia's gas policy on three levels - domestic, regional, and international - undertaken in the beginning of the 2000s have led to long-term strategic outcomes for Russia and its national gas champion Gazprom. In a nutshell, they include:

1) domestically - Gazprom was de-facto re-nationalised (2005) and a law on gas exports was launched in Russia (2006);
2) regionally - the basic agreement for Nord Stream pipeline was signed (2005) & the South Stream pipeline project was announced (2007);
3) internationally - Russia initiated gas relations with Asia (2004) and around that time discussions for Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects began.

Although a variety of aspects affecting Russia's energy sector and its strategy have been analysed already, Russia's gas strategy has not been examined comprehensively within a theoretical framework that encompasses the dynamics of its domestic, regional, international level. This research investigates the drivers of the aforementioned strategic changes on these three levels, tracks their outcome down and assesses them, asking the questions - why did these changes take place and what kind of outcomes did they lead to?

Understanding how political, economic, and security factors interact on a domestic, regional, and international level and how they shape states' strategies is an essential perquisite for casting a light on Russia's behaviour in the world of the natural gas and unveiling some of the complexities of the interlinked regional security and economic dynamics.

The methodology of this research is based on historical analysis, literature, document, media, and historical data review. The historical analysis is examined through process tracing - looking for evidence of changes in the aforementioned five elements. Finally, elite interviews are envisioned, in order to test the hypothesis and bring in authenticity and insights to the analysis.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1916661 Studentship ES/P000703/1 31/01/2017 31/01/2020 Kalina Damianova
Description During my fieldwork, I conducted interviews and collected specialised and insightful data about Russia's energy sector, in particular the domestic dynamics of its gas sector. In my PhD dissertation, this data greatly contributed to the building of a deeper and more authentic understanding of Russia's social, political and economic environment as well as the organisation of its gas sector and the evolution of its gas export strategy. In addition to that, I have developed a theoretical framework that would help analyse past, current and future dynamics of Russia's gas sector and more broadly - the evolution of Russia's social, political and economic order.
Exploitation Route Based on the information and the analysis made in my PhD project other researchers could potentially build on and analyse in more depth other strands of Russia's social, political and economic order as well as apply the principles established in my PhD to other similar cases.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy