Russia’s energy diplomacy in the Middle East

The ‘Energy Strategy of Russia for the Period up to 2030’, published in 2010, highlights promoting ‘the strengthening of foreign economic positions of the country’ as one of the Russian government’s key priorities. The Kremlin has pursued energy diplomacy more actively since, particularly with major energy-producing nations, in an endeavour to accomplish that aim.

Energy diplomacy typically refers to diplomatic and foreign policy activities conducted by a consumer country to secure access to energy resources from a producer country, with a view to ensuring security of supply. The EU-Russia energy relationship, for example, falls under this traditional paradigm of energy diplomacy conducted between a major energy consumer and supplier, with Russia often accused of leveraging its gas resources to achieve political goals in the European continent.

Energy diplomacy may also refer to efforts deployed by a producer country to secure access to markets, with a view to attaining security of demand. In this sense, from the perspective of producers, energy diplomacy takes on a different meaning: after all, producers sell the same product and compete for market share; what one economic actor loses is usually captured by a competitor.

The growing rapprochement between Russia and countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) encompasses the two forms of energy diplomacy. It is manifest in enhanced interaction and coordination among oil and gas-producing countries pursuing common interests, on the one hand, while nuclear energy, on the other hand, falls under the conventional category of producer-consumer diplomacy. In both cases, closer cooperation in the energy sphere facilitates and supports Russia’s wider commercial and political aspirations.

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Russia’s energy diplomacy in the Middle East is part of the Chaillot Paper, Russia’s return to the Middle East: Building sandcastles, published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies