Geopolitics of energy

Whether in Afghanistan, Central Asia or Eurasia, it is clear that the “lack of energy” continues to play an important role in the many geopolitical changes occurring in the world today. We continue to define the power of nations in terms of military and economic capabilities and also their major strategies, but what about judging this power in terms of self-sufficiency in the management of their countries by having access to energy? sufficient – nuclear or oil and gas?

Asia-Pacific Pivot is considered the great pivot of 21st century, but what about the other important pivots, one of them is the eastern pivot of Russia. The great Asia-Pacific hub and the eastern Russian hub are aimed at a single country, the world’s largest energy consumer today – China. The goal of the great Asia-Pacific hub is to contain China, but the eastern hub of Russia is supposed to cooperate and collaborate with it. Simply put, China needs energy and Russia needs markets and both will benefit from this mutual collaboration.

The pivot to the east of Russia can never be clearly understood unless we understand the historical energy concerns of the great powers. “No threat to your kingdom” was what US President Eisenhower (1953-1961) urged King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. This guarantee of security was not out of love for the people of Saudi Arabia, but a clear message to its rival in the USSR that the United States will do anything to prevent energy resources from falling into their hands. But in 1973 there was this Arab-Israeli war and everything changed. OPEC has imposed an oil embargo on the United States and other countries in retaliation for their support for Israel.

What followed was an increase in the prices of oil and gas and this provided oxygen to the failing and centrally planned Soviet economy of the time. The revenues from oil and gas helped the Soviet Union to turn around its economy and invest more in its military strengthening. Although 20 years later the Soviet economy collapsed under the very weight of such military spending, but history has taught the world two lessons – the first, the continuity of the Cold War over the past two decades has was made possible because the Americans created the circumstances under which the Soviet Union could take advantage of its natural resources and become a capable military power; and second, the very idea of ​​becoming a military power before becoming an economic power cost the Russians the disintegration of their Soviet empire. Have the Russians and Chinese learned these lessons? Their current collaboration and the management of regional geopolitics under the great banner of the concept of regionalism suggests that they have done so.

The bipolar world of yesteryear actively engaged in the geopolitics of energy and the contested world of today is no different. The only change is that the goal suggested by Russia’s pivot to the east is not territorial expansionism but economic, political and energy expansionism with clearly defined strategic intent and strategic goals. This finally leads me to explain why Russia’s east-to-China pivot is important and how it is likely to affect the 21st geopolitics of the energy of the century.

President Putin’s geostrategic and energy alignment is very clear. Russia cannot depend solely on selling its gas to Europe in the future and to that end and to stave off and circumvent US sanctions, its energy alignment is pivoting east. This means that oil and gas pipelines will not only flow from east to west, but also from west to east, to China.

China became the world’s largest energy consumer when it overtook the United States in 2009. Despite being the 8e largest oil producer in the world (3.8 million barrels per day), the huge economic boom that China has experienced means that it could not support its booming economy without importing oil and gas from the outside world. Following this realization, China signed in 2014 a $ 400 billion agreement with Russia for the supply of Russian gas for the next 30 years. As a result, in December 2019, the 1,800-mile-long “Power of Siberia Pipeline” built at a cost of $ 55 billion began supplying Russian gas to China. It changed the geopolitical energy in the region. How? ‘Or’ What?

Until 2005, only 5% of Russian oil exports went to China; today, 30% of Russian oil is exported to China, which has already made advances of $ 80 billion to Russian oil company Rosneft for uninterrupted supply to China for the next 25 years.

The import of 80% of the oil that China needs is its strategic vulnerability and contributes to one of the most deliberate contingencies of the US-China conflict: what if the US Navy blocked the Strait of Malacca (80% of Chinese imports The contingency is: what if Taiwan declares its independence and China retaliates against it? What about the transport of oil and gas by sea routes? It is to compensate for this strategic imbalance that Russia and China cooperate for mutual benefit. Countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Central Asian states are also at the heart of creating this enabling environment that can ensure the continuity and sustainability of this geopolitics of energy.

The geopolitics of energy is defined as “the effect that the location of resources has on the politics of states”. Once the spoilers have been ruled out in Afghanistan, it is necessary to reorganize regional geopolitics. In this context, Russia and China must play a huge role, fully supported by Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the states of Central Asia as part of the broader concept of sharing the land. energy and its sure expansionism. The states where the resources are found, the states that depend on them and the states that facilitate the transport of these resources are all actors in this great game of regional connectivity. If properly executed, this connectivity can create a regional order that can ensure the active participation of all stakeholders, not only to improve their respective GDPs, but also to create many jobs that will follow.

Posted in The Express Tribune, August 22sd, 2021.

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About Alexander Estrada

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