bottleneck analysis

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Monthly Archives: November 2013

On Gazprom, the Kremlin and Foreign Policy Decision-Making in Russia

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

Today an article that I co-wrote with a colleague and friend of mine was published in the 25th volume of Irish Slavonic Studies (full issue in .pdf), the academic journal of the Irish Association for Russian, Central and East European Studies. In May 2012 I flew to Cork, Ireland to give a presentation of the preliminary findings of the paper Ludovico Grandi and I had written over the previous Christmas and Easter vacation (because that’s how researchers employ their free time). I am grateful to the wonderful and eclectic Irish Association, which gave us the possibility, even as young researchers, to publish on their journal, but most of all to participate in their annual conferences, that enriched my knowledge, extended my network, and helped me amend some fallacies from my work. For the 2012 edition in Cork I wrote a blog post and a report, I couldn’t do the same for this year’s conference in Dublin, which was equally outstanding.

It’s a rather descriptive piece, that lacks a deeper analysis of the meanders of Russian foreign policy and the influence that National Corporations have upon the decision-making processes, but a) the lack of space and time; and b) our overarching purpose prevented us from a more profound research. In reality, I had captured some of the technicalities of the influence of energy issues in Russian foreign policy already in 2011 with my thesis/book (which will soon be available free of charge). Moreover, our effort mainly aimed to poke academic research in the troubled grounds of complexity.

It has been far too easy for academics, as well as journalists and experts, to sweep everything under the carpet and apply a blanket judgement on “Russia” as an “energy superpower”. This raw point of departure fails to take into account the variety of actors and interests involved in the decision-making process that shapes foreign policy. With this paper we point out the dynamics between the Kremlin and the National Champions of Gazprom and Rosneft’.

Our main argument is that there are periods of concentration of interests, i.e. the interest of the two state-owned energy companies and that of their owner coincide, when Russian foreign policy is spelled with one voice, also using the much advertised “energy weapon”. However, and counter to a substantial branch of the literature, we observed that in periods of competing interests, decision-making in Russian foreign policy is contested by the various actors, as in the case with TNK-BP until the summer of 2012. Timing is important when you bring up an example: Russian actors have acted in concert since the confusion that led up to the heated summer of 2012 and now display a more cohesive stance towards the case that we analyzed. This fact, however, does not weaken much our argument, since we wished to depict precisely the periods of “concentration” and “competition” that influence the decision-making in Russian foreign policy.

So here we are. Clicking on the picture below, you can read the .pdf version of the article. And yes, the picture below shows you that the article before ours was written by Peter J. S. Duncan, one of the guiding stars in our research path.