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  • Author: Nikos Tsafos
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Within 10 years, three exporters will tower over the global gas world: Russia, the United States, and Qatar. Other exporters—Norway, Australia, Canada—will remain big players, but their influence will be regional, not global. New entrants will emerge, and existing players will expand their presence, but no country will match the big three in scale, growth, and reach. China will meanwhile become the largest destination for gas, surpassing Japan in imports and closing in on Europe as a whole. These profound changes will rewire the gas system, making it more integrated and competitive. But the system may also allow these mega-players the opportunity to exercise market power, using levers at their disposal to influence prices and flows. Geopolitics might also weigh heavily as a possible driver of behavior or source of friction. The gas world will thus be pulled in three directions: more integration and competition, more efforts to exercise market power, and more geopolitics complementing and complicating market forces. The big question is which of these three competing forces will have a greater say in this new gas era.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Gas, Exports
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, North America, Qatar, United States of America
  • Author: Edward C. Chow, Andrew J. Stanley
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: After the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia was roiled by political and economic chaos, many state-owned assets were privatized based on political connections and corrupt practices. The oil sector was a particularly attractive, but by no means the only, target for these privatizations. By the end of the 1990s, almost all of Russia’s oil production was privately owned. In spite of continued nontransparency, the oil sector began to resemble a competitive market with private investors introducing Western technology, financial accounting, and operating and management practices. It also started to attract major foreign investments. The remaining state oil assets were managed by a sleepy state enterprise named Rosneft that, in spite of its name (Russian Oil), produced less than 5 percent of Russia’s oil. Today, majority state-owned Rosneft produces almost half of Russia’s oil. Its daily oil production of 4.6 million barrels, according to its last reported quarterly results, is double that of the world’s largest oil company by market capitalization, ExxonMobil, which last reported daily liquids production of 2.3 million barrels. Rosneft’s rapid rise coincided with the rule of Vladimir Putin, who first became president of Russia in 2000. Its production increases were built largely on the backs of controversial acquisitions of assets previously held by private companies such as Yukos, TNK-BP, and Bashneft. Rosneft’s acquisition spree accelerated after Putin’s close associate and Russia’s then-deputy prime minister Igor Sechin became chairman of its board of directors in 2004. Sechin left government in 2012 to take over as Rosneft’s chief executive officer. Rosneft’s board of directors is now chaired by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Rosneft’s transformation as Russia’s national oil champion is consistent with Putin’s policy of regaining state control over the commanding heights of the Russian economy, which is more reliant on oil income today than the Soviet Union ever was. Rosneft is Russia’s largest taxpayer and contributed a quarter of government revenue in 2014. Until recently, Rosneft concentrated mainly on consolidating its dominance over the domestic oil patch. It is also Russia’s leading refiner and is increasing natural gas production for direct sales to domestic gas users, producing 67 billion cubic meters in 2016. In 2014, Russia was hit by the twin shocks of a global oil price collapse and Western economic sanctions enacted after its aggression against Ukraine in the Donbas region and annexation of Crimea. These developments affected Rosneft severely since it involved the value of the commodity it produces and sells and restricted Rosneft’s access to international financing when it was heavily indebted from the aforementioned acquisitions. A normal company might hunker down, repair its balance sheet, and wait for external conditions to improve. Instead Rosneft has done the exact opposite and expanded its international business aggressively. As part of the 2014 U.S.-led sanction efforts, Igor Sechin, as the leading figure of Russia’s largest petroleum company and his having “shown utter loyalty to Vladimir Putin,” was directly sanctioned. Further Russian sanctions enacted by Congress in 2017 called on the U.S. Department of the Treasury to submit a detailed report on senior political figures, oligarchs, and parastatal entities as determined by their “closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.” While the unclassified version of the report released to Congress on January 29 included Igor Sechin, the report was poorly received and largely regarded as nothing more than a “rich list” by Russian experts. However, the report also contains classified annexes, including a list of parastatal entities and supporting analysis, which by definition would have included Rosneft. Although Rosneft’s rapid international expansion is too recent to assess definitely, this paper describes some of Rosneft’s overseas ventures and explores possible motivations, economic and political, behind them.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Foreign Direct Investment, Sanctions, Gas, Transparency, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Nikos Tsafos
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue Russian energy has divided the transatlantic alliance for over 60 years. Tensions normally just simmer, but they flare up when a new project is proposed, especially after a political crisis. In the 1960s, it was the prospect of increased Soviet oil exports following the Cuban missile crisis. In the 1980s, it was more Soviet gas for Western Europe after the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and martial law had been declared in Poland. Today, it is the proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its war against Ukraine (among other actions). Disagreements are natural in a broad alliance with diverse interests and perspectives. But it is now almost impossible to discuss Russian gas with any sense of calm (increasingly true for all things related to Russia). Russian initiatives are infused with perceptions and fears that range from the simple and legitimate to the obscure and far-fetched. In reality, arguments about Russian gas are rarely about Russian gas; they are about history, strategy, and geopolitics. Gas is just the spark. The end result is confusion and discord at a time when the transatlantic alliance has enough problems—without needing to add gas to the fire. It is time to separate Russian gas from the broader Russia agenda. Doing so will boost energy security, protect and strengthen the transatlantic alliance, and allow us to focus where the West can resist Russian power more meaningfully. This argument rests on three propositions. First, that energy does not give Russia as much power as we usually assume; second, that an antagonistic strategy is unlikely to be sustained or succeed in bringing about change, whether in energy or geopolitics; and third, that the best response to Russian gas is a set of policies that Europe should pursue anyway and that are unrelated to Russia. In short, we need to radically rethink Russian gas; how much it matters; and what the United States and Europe should do about it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Gas, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, North America
  • Author: Keith C. Smith
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the leaders of Russia, including then-President Boris Yeltsin, searched for new methods of continuing to exert influence over the former Soviet-controlled region. The Kremlin at first used an energy blockade to the Baltic States in 1990 in an attempt to prevent their breakaway from the Soviet Union. After that failed, it then focused on the growing opposition in the former republics of the Soviet Union and in East Central Europe to its foreign and economic policies, and in particular on demands that Russian military forces withdraw from the newly independent states. The Kremlin leadership quickly recognized that short of military action, its major foreign policy tool was the denial or threat of denial of access to Russia's vast oil and gas resources. The economies of East European and Central Asian countries, and especially their rail and pipeline infrastructures, had been hardwired by Soviet leaders to assure total dependency on Moscow for their raw materials, including oil, gas, coal, and nuclear fuel.
  • Topic: Cold War, Economics, Emerging Markets, Energy Policy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Central Asia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Robert E. Ebel, John Taylor
  • Publication Date: 03-1998
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: This panel report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies considers an issue of critical importance to U.S. national security interests: Is the United States now pursuing a well-conceived and effective program of working with Russia to dispose of the vast amounts of separated plutonium that have become excess to the nuclear weapons needs of the two countries?
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States