A glimpse inside the black hole of Russia’s corridors of power reveals that the fault line within the regime is getting deeper, and the current campaign for the upcoming State Duma elections on September 17–19 is one of the factors determining that line.
Energy security used to be about uninterrupted flows of affordable and available resources. This article argues that it is much more than that. By taking a historically informed social science approach to energy politics, the article includes issues pertaining to national independence, identity, future aspirations, and the role of technology and natural resources.
In Norway, the relation to oil and gas is so deeply ingrained in what it means to be a proud and independent Norwegian state, that given up drilling for oil nearly means giving up the idea of the nation. At the same time, the Norwegian identity is so closely tied to the natural resource of hydropower that any attempt of integration of electrical grids with continental Europe meets fundamental critique and risks failure. These issues are closely tied to the historical process leading to independence from Denmark and Sweden.
In conflict-ridden Ukraine obtaining energy security means attaining sovereignty and dignity after centuries of foreign reign. With a total natural gas dependency on Russia, day-to-day negotiations of reverse gas flows with neighbours become fundamental to upholding identity and trust in the future of the state. And building a new renewable alternative means much more than securing energy supply. It means building a strong nation in charge of its own destiny.
This article seeks to develop a model for tying issues of identity together with energy visions and day to day energy politics. By filtering through historical and current sources, the article argues that energy needs to be approached in a new way. If we miss the deeper and more stabilized parts of the energy story central drivers behind current climate and energy politics in the two countries are lost. The article will be of interest to energy analysts, academic researchers, people interested in Norwegian and Ukrainian affairs, and students.
When the five Caspian littoral states signed a maritime delimitation pact in August 2018, they additionally agreed not to allow any outside power to have a military role in this landlocked sea (RITM Eurasia, August 14, 2018). But in the three years since that accord was adopted, the geopolitical situation in the region has shifted for a whole host of reasons: namely, Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia last year, the growth of the navies of the littoral states (see EDM, May 28, 2020 and June 24, 2021), burgeoning and reorienting trade among Caspian ports (see EDM, May 23, 2017 and April 6, 2021), as well as the increasing involvement of Turkey and China (see EDM, October 16, 2020; TRT, February 23, 2021). In response, Russia has taken three important steps designed to promote cooperation between itself and the four other states around the Caspian to ensure that outside powers—especially Turkey and China—continue to be excluded.
The massive, Russo-Belarusian Zapad 2021 operational-strategic war games have ended. The scenario of this year’s iteration of Zapad (September 10–16) envisaged an attack on the Russo-Belarusian Union State by a hostile outside force depicted as the fictitious “Polar Republic.” The invaders were eventually defeated and pushed back. A joint force of Russian paratroopers, armor contingents of the Russian 1st Guards Tank Army and Belarusian units, supported by Russian jets and anti-aircraft missiles, participated in the Zapad 2021 exercises in western Belarus: some 2,500 Russian and 10,300 Belarusian troops plus a token contingent of 50 men from Kazakhstan (see EDM, September 9).
As Russia prepares to vote for the State Duma elections from September 17-19, the ruling United Russia (UR) party is expected to retain control of the lower house of parliament. Despite the approval ratings that have stayed well below 30 percent over the past year, most analysts believe that the party will be able to secure a majority, if not a super-majority, in the 450 member parliament. Yet, the situation today is much different from the 2016 Duma elections that saw UR attain a record 343 out of 450 seats in the Duma, benefiting from favourable public opinion following the annexation of Crimea.
The final months ahead of the elections to the Russian State Duma (lower chamber of parliament) were marked by a total cleansing of the political field (see EDM, September 13). This included an aggressive crackdown on the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) (RIA Novosti, June 9), entailing reprisals against everyone who supported the structures of Alexei Navalny (Deutsche Welle—Russian service, May 17), and the denouncement as “foreign agents” of the overwhelming number of opposition media outlets (BBC News—Russian service, August 20).
A decade after Moscow launched a strategic initiative to reorientate its economy toward Asian markets, Dr Richard Connolly, Director of the Eastern Advisory Group consultancy, discusses Russia’s policies and the challenges that Moscow has faced in developing new trade and business ties to promote its underdeveloped eastern regions with Dr Neil Melvin, Director RUSI International Security Studies.
Since Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul on 15 August, Russia has cautiously accommodated the Taliban’s seizure of power. Diplomats, such as Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov and President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, have praised the Taliban’s contributions to security in Kabul and the struggle against Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). While Russia has no immediate plans to afford diplomatic recognition to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Putin recently stated that Moscow will engage with the Taliban as soon as it ‘enters the family of civilized people’.