Energy Geopolitics in the Caspian Basin

October 19, 2011

At its core, geopolitics is the analysis of spatial competition between nation states.  Geoeconomics is a subset of geopolitics or, alternately, a softer version of geopolitics – the same spatial  competition stripped of the hard (or, at least, harder) power aspects.

Within both realms, however, are not just competition but cooperation.  Paolo Sorbello at e-International Relations provides an account of Russo/Kazakh cooperation on development of the Kurmangazy oil field in the Caspian Sea:

This quick account of Russo-Kazakh relations over the Kurmangazy oilfield is a good case in point in order to understand more complex dynamics that have characterized the relations between Moscow and Astana in the last ten years. Vacillations, misunderstandings, compromises, and accords followed each other during leading governmental meetings. Energy has played a peculiar role as the starter of the diplomatic dialogue and remained a cardinal foundation among the parties and in their relations with the exterior, as well as the other Caspian states, the EU, China, and the USA.

It might turn out that Kurmangazy will not yield as much oil as foreseen. In spite of this scenario, it is very probable that Russia and Kazakhstan will remain close, will continue to talk on energy matters, and will collaborate on current and new exploration projects. Thus, soft power aspect of the energy becomes highly relevant in both countries’ foreign policy decision-making. Thinking traditionally, in such countries, the hegemony of the executive on the other powers would lead one to predict the opposite. Therefore, it becomes necessary to start including the energy variable in geopolitical analyses in a more systematic and consistent way.


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