Black Swans of the International Politics - Yüksel Yasemin Altıntaş


A black swan analogy usually used for events that refers to an unforeseen occurrence that typically has extreme consequences. This profile tends to be seen more in the rising powers of energy politics. Gaye Christoffersen indicates that some analysis identifies China as a black swan in energy politics due to its unpredictable nature, conflicts of interests in the Middle East, and lack of shared rules and practices in the global arena. Russia is another powerful state which falls under the black energy swan category with its globally impacted energy policy choices. Energy insecurities like oil embargos, gas crisis and regional security concerns (securing pipelines, protecting straits from pirates, etc.), lack of state capacity to control domestic energy market regulations, and incoherence between local and international energy regulations negatively affect Black Swan’s energy diplomacy. Through international cooperation’s black swans of energy like China and Russia started to standardize their energy regulations and increase theirs influentially in world energy politics.


BRIC states try to form an energy block to expand their powers. However, one should not forget that they do not only cooperate by adopting common energy strategies, they also compete with one and other, and with developed states to dominate their targeted region. In the Chinese case, by using its veto power in the UN Security Council, China tried to secure its bilateral energy deals while playing the protector role for the regional states such as Iran. Unfortunately, such actions only save the moment. China can only transform itself into a white energy swan if it adopts more transparent energy policies, acts more comprehensive, and become a more predictable player by fallowing international practices and regulations in the market. To start such a transformation, international institutions such as Shanghai Cooperation, G20, BRICS would provide a better ground than the Middle East or UN for China to prove itself.


In each summit, the priority of member states, thus their agenda changes. In the 2009 BRIC summit, participants supported dialogues among energy providers, buyer and transit countries, diversification of energy supplies, and cooperation in energy infrastructure. In 2011, Sanya Summit an Action Plan created to improve the relations among the member states. The Sanya Declaration opposed the excessive volatility in world commodity prices, especially in the energy sector. Declaration emphasized the need to strengthen producer-consumer dialogues to achieve a better balance of supply-demand. It also abutment cooperation on renewable (including nuclear) energy. The 2012 Delhi Summit produced a Delhi Declaration and a Delhi Action Plan. Just like the Sanya declaration, the Delhi declaration also emphasized strengthening producer-consumer dialogues, especially in the food and energy sectors. Summit recognized Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy. I think The Delhi Action Plan was more critical than the previous summits because, in this summit, states discussed the possibility of a BRICS framework for multilateral energy cooperation and the possibility of creating an alternative world energy order. When it comes to the 2013 Dubai summit Energy and the food security was the top issue.


As you can see, even the priorities change the state’s primary concerns, and problems revolve around the same issues. Of course, time to time member states interests’ overlaps; for instance, both China and Russia hope BRICS to provide a counterweight to US power. However, this does not mean that they all expect the same outcome. China hopes to transform BRICS into a system which supports Chinese initiatives in the world polity and economy. To fulfill its goal in 2011, China becomes an observer country in Energy Charter 2011 and a participant in the Task Force for Regional Energy Cooperation in Central Asia in 2014.


On the other hand, Russia was and still is hoping to become the leader of BRICS to expand its power. Till the 2013 summit, Russia believed that BRICS could take on a geopolitical role under Russian leadership. It realized that BRICS is not ready for such domination. Yet, it continued to conduct its actions as if it was the leader of the new global energy block. In 2015 Russia hosted the 7th BRICS Summit, 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, and informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). As we can see, states perceive such organizations as a tool to accomplish their policy goals. Thus the task that they take on, their involvement degree in such summits, differs.


As emerging economies, all BRICS States constitute 40% of the world population, and they depend on hydrocarbon resources. Since they depend on hydrocarbon resources, they contribute to air pollution and climate change too. Because of that, most of the Western states, environmentalist critics BRIC countries. Because of their population, growing economy, and non-renewable energy consumption, all of these states have to be included in the decision making of each international energy agreements and regulations. Otherwise, it would be unrealistic to expect full-filling results from international energy agreements.


As rising powers, BRIC states have to overcome many impediments. They need to find the best solutions and projects to enhance their progress, whiting their economic limitations. Some futuristic projects like the green economy project may not be able to adopt by these states due to economic burdens and/or requirements of the project. By using international institutions, regional or strategic partnership platforms as rising powers, these energy black swans can legitimize their actions, create new blocks in the international arena and change the existing dynamics of world politics to fulfill their aims.


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