Power of Siberia and Russia-China Relations - Gökberk Bilgin


With the official launching on December 2, the Power of Siberia gas pipeline has become a reality. The new gas pipeline is the largest gas infrastructure in the entire Russian Far East and extends for nearly 3,000 kilometers. As the dynamics of global energy politics changed, the Russian government updated its policies accordingly. Starting with the 2008 energy crisis and increasing with the 2014 Ukraine Crisis, European trust in Russia on energy security declined significantly, and they began to search for alternative sources. It caused Russia to focus more on the eastern part of its territories.


The growing demand for oil and natural gas by China and India offered new customers to Russian officials. In the article, Russia’s energy diplomacy with China: personalism and institutionalism in its policy-making process, Xu and Reisinger explained that Moscow administration had four different priorities. First of them was the control of Far Eastern territories. Since it is significantly far away from the federal government, it is harder to rule the regions successfully. Therefore, by offering them more economic activity, the Russian government both want to improve these regions and establish stable bilateral relations with the Asia-Pacific Region countries. This policy might help Russia to ensure itself a strong place in the international system. The authors of the article argue that the primary issue for Russia is not energy security but to signal to the United States and Europe that Russia is strategically independent, and it would not be intimidated by the imposition of sanctions due to its powerful friends. However, building the policy is not easy as it seems; the Chinese presence in the region always remains a threat to the Russian Federation. The investments for the One Belt, One Road project increase the Chinese influence in Central Asia, and Russia fears their expansion even though they sell the necessary fuel for this operation.


To balance the situation in Asia, the Russians also develop bilateral relations with India as well. Since they require vast amounts of oil and refinery products, they made an agreement to work with coopetition. According to the agreement, India invested in the Russian oil fields, and Russia build high-tech refineries in India. With this agreement, the Russians increased their security on the region and established a powerful partnership with India.


In the West, on the other hand, the development of LNG challenged the structure of the contracts made by the European customers and Russian gas company Gazprom. The trust between the Russian company and the European countries created a solid relationship even in the height of the Cold War period. However, today, the decreasing demand and availability of new options threaten the way that Russians build contracts. Instead of making long-term contracts that linked to oil prices, now the Europeans look for spot price markets. However, several pipeline projects for the European market is planned for the upcoming years as well.

Overall, the Russians, by changing their focus from West to East, started a new era for themselves in the energy business. They try to impact global energy politics by providing resources to rising powers in the East.


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