Global Effects of Recourse Curse, Petro-States and International Conflicts - Yüksel Yasemin Altıntaş


Resource curse does not only affect resource-rich states by causing them to experience intrastate conflicts, but it also affects the international system. Whenever a recourse prosperous country, more specifically, petro-state experience an intrastate conflict, the extraction of the good and maintain its transportation security becomes harder. Thus the price of that commodity increases. For the rare-earth minerals, such changes in the price may not affect other states intensively. On the other hand, due to its wide usage area and dependency, even a slight shift in oil prices or delayed delivery of oil causes severe problems in the international arena by affecting all the states.


Jeff Colgan defines that petrostates as the countries in which revenues from net oil exports constitute at least 10% of GDP. I think the petrostate definition can be done regardless of the net oil export contribution percentage to GDP in that sense 10% threshold is useless. If we want to talk about petro-state caused international strains instead of talking percentage of constituencies in states GDP, states domestic structures should be taken in to account. As Colgan’s research shows, petro-states are far more frequently involved in international conflicts than non-petrostates. Petro-states like Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, and Libya are more fully understood as aggressive actors in foreign affairs than as passive targets of conquest. After seeing so many examples of aggressive, non-democratic (in compare to western democratic understanding where institutions, court, right, and regulations are strong enough to ensure the checks and balances in domestic politics) oils rich states, international community be prejudiced against the all petro-states by assuming that they all prowl to expand their power.


Petro-states can use their oil income every sector, but in general, due to the instabilities in their regions, they invest a certain amount of their income to finance their military capabilities and campaigns. For some states, such investment can cause expansion on the petro-state’s opportunities for aggression. Nevertheless, that may not be the intention of the petro-state. Because of the enduring inter and intrastate conflicts, to secure the state resources or protect the power that they hold, statesman continually invests in the military. When a state expands, it’s military spending, and it’s naturally disturbing the regional states primarily than to the international community. Considering that rules can never be so sure of other states’ intentions, a defensive based investment may be perceived as a preparation for offensive action. We can think of this misinterpretation of the effects, intentions problem as the classic security dilemma problem in international relations. That’s why I prefer to use a small oil-rich country in which institutions are weak; wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of few, which causes less democratic, more authoritarian government structures definition to explain petro-states. Because regardless of their oil export percentages, all of these resource-rich countries carry the potential of triggering a regional or international security dilemma.


Some scholars argue that oil income can generate an enormous financial incentive to avoid any international conflict as long as it does not directly affect petro-states domestic politics. Even though I am not rejecting that idea, I do not agree with those scholars too. I think foreign politics and internal policies can never be separated from each other, and one always influences the other. In that sense, in the case of international conflict, the petro-state also gets affected by that. It can be either a positive or negative effect. Let’s say that a non-petro-state Y declared an oil embargo to petro-state X due to state X’s position in international conflict, and many other states support this embargo. In that case, petro-state X’s economy and domestic politics will be negatively affected. States can only decrease their oil consumption to a certain degree when they declare an oil embargo to one of the oil providers they need to either replace petro-state X with another petro-state or they have to increase the amount of oil they purchase from other petro-states. In such an environment, since the dependency of the international community increases to other petro-states, their domestic policies and incomes expand.


As a result, these states may start to show more authoritarian tendencies. In a nutshell, positively or negatively, all of the petro-states get affected by international conflicts. Interaction of oil income and revolutionary government structure can create incentives for international conflict because, global community, at least some of the influential states in the international arena, tries to keep the transformation of petro-states under their control. As long as petro-states leaders get along with great powers, as long as their interests do not contradict excellent skills will support the existing internal structure of the petro-states. This mutual relationship will benefit authoritarian leaders of the petro-states by ensuring their powers while helping great powers by guaranteeing the secure access of oil and natural resources securely, whenever they want. To change the existing structure, Petro-revolutionary states have to engage in different types of aggressive behaviors. Even though states only show this aggression within its domestic policies, other countries cannot predict the upcoming moves. As we see on the Saddam Hussein example, with the fear of emerge of a potential aggressor state, the international community responds to the aggressive behaviors of revolutionary Petro states with economic sanctions. Sanctions, by causing cooperation and conflict among countries, and non-state actors sanctions reshapes states alienation behaviors, the balance of power in the global arena.


Cox and Drury’s study indicates that “Economic sanctions are commonly conceptualized as a response to provocative state behavior that serves as an alternative to military conflict.” Due to their economic dependencies on oil, Petro-revolutionary states are more likely to be targeted for economic sanctions. Non-petrostates may hope to restrain some petro-states, which started to come unreliable due to their leaders and authoritarian structure. Instead of settling petro-states, such sanctions can create the exact opposite impact, by leading speed-up on the authoritarianism of states or causing states to form alliances with non-state actors. Once petro-states internalize under which circumstances external powers set economic sanctions, Petro-revolutionary states can set their strategy accordingly. They can divert their income sources and form dangerous alliances with non-state actors. As a result, the likelihood of occurrence of a wide range of regional or international conflict increases.


In either case, we are facing inevitable catastrophic consequences for the sake of international energy security reliability and stability of petro-states plays a crucial role. Due to different petro-states are dealing with inter and international conflicts within their regions, and most of them bear the characteristics of authoritarian state structures. The income of the oil, foreign dependency on petroleum and natural resources forces international actors to cooperate with the autocratic leaders. If they don’t collaborate with these leaders in the case of a revolution, the upcoming leader of state structure may cause broader security concerns and problems for the other states. Because of such fear, with the support that they receive from the other countries, authoritarian leaders expand their powers. If a revolutionary government were to emerge in petro-states like Saudi Arabia or Iraq, it could have disastrous consequences.


On the contrary, a robust one-man rule states also possess treat. Non-petrostates are vulnerable against petro-states. If they cannot meet their oil and gas demand, it can cause severe effects on non-petro-states domestic policies. On the other hand, one should not forget that petro-states also remain vulnerable to its buyers if a petro-state cannot sell its oil and gas than, economically, they will be stuck in a difficult situation in their domestic politics as well. To sum, we can say that both oil importer and exporter states are dependent and vulnerable against each other.


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