Energy and geopolitics
Alex Colas and Gonzo Pozo: Spaces of Accumulation, Cartographies of Conflict: Marxism and the Geopolitics of Energy / Simon Pirani: Russia's Natural Resources: Curse? Weapon? Both?
Spaces of Accumulation, Cartographies of Conflict: Marxism and the Geopolitics of Energyby Alex Colas and Gonzo Pozo
Despite recent advances in the areas of international relations, international political economy and economic geography, and not withstanding the fruitful returns of imperialism as a key concept in academic and political debates alike, war, conflict and competition among world powers still tend to be cast as expressions of ‘geopolitical rivalry’. In this way, geopolitics becomes shorthand for the territorial modes of international competition, and forecloses a deeper inquiry of the role of political spaces in the dynamics of imperialism. The ‘space’ of interstate conflict still cries out for an analysis which can shed light on it as a social process, permanently drawn and redrawn by the production, circulation and accumulation of value and by the relations of power engendered the capitalist system. In this paper, we will propose a ‘Marxist’ geopolitics, an approach rooted in historical materialism which underlies the primacy of space as an engine for change in the international system, taking it as a the historical and material projection of capitalist accumulation. Although we will spell out the different levels of abstraction at which this approach can be put to work, this paper will concentrate on the contemporary challenges to a Marxist understanding of geopolitics posed by energy security.
Russia's Natural Resources: Curse? Weapon? Both?by Simon Pirani
Most western political scientists accept ''a priori'' the power of Moscow’s ‘energy weapon’, mainly on the basis of Russian political leaders’ statements about using oil and gas resources in line with foreign policy goals. But the discourse is at odds with economic realities. Certainly, Moscow uses energy resources, along with anything else that comes to hand, to bully Ukraine and other smaller neighbours. But in the larger context of post-Soviet Russia’s integration into the world capitalist economy, it is Russia’s own dependence on energy resources, and the export revenues they provide, that stand out. Fear of losing control of these revenues drove the Kremlin’s fights with the oligarchs, which culminated in the effective renationalisation of the Yukos oil company in 2004-6. The world economic crisis of 2008-9 underlined Russia’s weakness, and strengthened arguments to the effect that Russia suffers from aspects of the ‘resource curse’ that afflicts developing countries with oil. The paper comments on these issues, and on post-Soviet Russia’s place in the world economy and in the shifting relationship between the dominant (imperialist) powers and oil producers.