States are no longer the only entities that play a crucial role in shaping international policy. Today, international policy makers are influenced by various actors, such as domestic and international institutions, large state and private corporations, the media, non-governmental organizations and others. Trade relations are the main topics on the international scene that reflect on relations between countries and overall international events.
The channels of trade that have taken place between Europe, Asia and Africa throughout history have taken different forms and paths. In the past, trade took place by land caravans and ships. With the invention of the steam engine and the establishment of railway traffic, the circulation of goods and people rises to the highest level by then. Transnational railways, especially those connecting Central Asia with the seas and shipping, have changed the state of land power, and nowhere is this effect stronger than in the closed “Heartland” territory of Eurasia. Railways used to be the most important part of transport, today they are all modes of transport that are a new means of achieving the goals that serve the geo-economics of the new age. When gas and oil appeared, the influence of those countries that had these two important energy sources increased, as well as those through whose territories the newly established gas and oil pipelines passed. The energy dynamics between Russia and the European Union is a significant factor in defining international events, not only in Europe but also in America and Asia.
Russia is one of the largest suppliers of gas to Europe, but also to the world’s top exporters. Many countries depend on its oil and gas, so based on that fact, relations are created with other countries, especially in the case of Russia and the EU, which is the largest buyer of Russian gas. The eternal struggle between power and fear, between defining and adopting international politics, are places where these two superpowers are trying to protect their own interests. Russia, on the one hand, depends on revenues from the EU as its largest customer, while the EU, on the other hand, depends on Russia, because it imports almost half of its gas and oil from that country. However, both parties are trying to find solutions to secure their own interests, but at the same time they are trying to find another solution for their needs in order to reduce their dependence on each other. Russia is doing this by developing access to the Asian market, and the EU by developing energy from renewable sources.
European Union, America and Russia
Relations between the European Union and Russia are best viewed in correlation with relations with the United States, the world’s military, political and economic leader. The cooperation of the North Atlantic allies became especially important with the coming to power of the administration of President Joe Biden. Biden’s recent multi-day visit to Europe resulted in the signing of the amended Atlantic Charter between America and Great Britain, and then two significant separate summits, with NATO allies and with Russia.
Energy dynamics in the world today play a major role in world stability, if not the greatest, because through oil and gas prices, all other market values are created. Globalization has enhanced interdependence and created a world in which the market is a key factor in decision-making at almost all levels, as states have never depended on each other again. Many scholars refer to the theories of Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant, who theorized about the peaceful effects of economic interdependence. According to their theories, economic interdependence basically benefits states, because they will not come into conflict against their economic partners for fear of losing the commercial gains produced by those relationships. Trade has a significant effect on both leaders and citizens, making them more civilized and less belligerent. As economic interdependence expands, economic interests prevail over security interests, and national interest is defined more by the pursuit of wealth rather than state power.
On the other hand, Marxists and neo-Marxists disagree with these theories. They see economic interdependence as a source of conflict between developed and developing countries. Creating an economic relationship that is essentially exploitative slows down the development of poorer countries by those that are more developed. Scholars working on realistic theory also see differences in power that arise from interdependence, as a potential source of conflict between states. Some prominent realist studies claim that economic cooperation increases contact and interaction between states, and that this can stimulate conflict and belligerent behavior.
However, much of the literature dealing with this topic argues that increased economic interdependence reduces the possibility of conflict between states. Policymakers often use this argument to suggest that interdependence will lead to cooperation and more friendly relations and alleviate the security concerns of potential adversaries.
The European Union and Russia are in a stalemate
During the Cold War, relations between Western Europe and Russia were constantly tense because Europe itself was divided between the so-called Western and Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall was not only a symbol of the division into West and East, but, in a way, also a geographical divide.
After the end of the Cold War, it seemed that the relationship between Russia and Europe, and Russia and the Western world as a whole, would go in a more positive direction, so the relationship was presented as a “strategic partnership”. This concept was launched by the first EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1995, and the desire for increased cooperation grew with it. Both sides reaffirmed their mutual interest in a joint strategy from 1999 and 2004 in the framework of EU enlargement. Many contracts and approvals have been signed and new solutions have been proposed. Russia and the European Union remained committed to expanding cooperation at the May 2003 summit in St. Petersburg. However, despite the constant expansion of cooperation, these relations were constantly accompanied by certain tensions.
Russia’s halt to gas supplies to Europe in 2006 not only frightened Europeans, but also raised the question of the extent to which normative Europe can surrender to Russian geopolitics? The question is, what is it that made Russia react in this way? Russia used such a strategic position to reach negotiations, which ultimately defined relations. Despite the continuing presence of uncertainty, it is believed that the EU’s dependence on gas imports from Russia will continue to increase in the decades to come. This issue will be the main strategic challenge for the EU, but also for America, as the main European ally. European-Russian relations affect the direct relationship between the two largest nuclear powers, Russia and America. We have already said that as much as Europe depends on gas imports, Russia needs the same finances that it received for the delivered gas. Russian companies, such as Gazprom, which are state-owned, are one of the main sources of revenue for the Russian Federation. It is certain that Russia will continue to use the levers it has thanks to gas in achieving its strategic goals. On the one hand money, on the other hand necessary gas, create a relationship of power and fear.
Foreign policy between power and fear
The European Union has a complex task ahead of it, and that is to design a single European energy policy that will settle the interests among the members, and define the joint approach of the Union towards Russia. Germany is making great efforts to bring the “security dilemma” to the level of control. The latest gas pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, which connects Russia and Germany, is a submarine pipeline through which more Russian gas will come, primarily to Germany, but also to Europe itself. For now, Russia supplies the EU through four main pipelines: Ukraine (which includes the Brotherhood pipeline and the Balkan route that has so far supplied Bosnia and Herzegovina), Belarus (mainly the Yamal pipeline), Nord Stream and Turkey Stream.
In order to avoid political chaos and the position of a weak player on the international scene, the strategic unification of European members is a solution for stability, but also a reflection of power. For exporters like Russia, market security is of great importance for long-term and predictable revenues. On the other side of the Atlantic is America with its own interests and it is difficult to make important decisions in the world without it, including supplying Europe with Russian gas. One of the important geopolitical issues is the amount of gas that will be transported through Ukraine, after the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is operating at full capacity, along with the already functional Turkish Stream. Ukraine is one of the key issues between the Western allies and Russia, especially after Russia annexed Crimea, which is part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. This issue will be the main topic for a long time between NATO allies and Russia, whose final solution is difficult to guess at this moment. That is why the issue of energy supply is one of the burning political issues that encroach on world security itself.
In late December, the U.S. Congress authorized the U.S. president to impose sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, retrofitting and upgrading. The sanctions also applied to any entity that “provided services for the examination, inspection or certification” of pipelines. However, President Biden’s administration has waived sanctions against companies building a pipeline between Russia and Germany, in order to strengthen ties with European allies. The United States has also lifted sanctions on the executive authorities of the allies behind the construction of the project. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out that Russia and the United States have “serious differences, but they should cooperate in spheres in which their interests coincide”. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said President Biden wanted a “predictable and stable relationship with Russia”. German officials warmly welcomed the lifting of sanctions as a “constructive step” by the Biden administration. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters that this was an expression of the fact that Germany is an important partner for the United States, which America can count on in the future. Analysts say the US president was unwilling to jeopardize relations with Germany at a time when he was trying to refresh and strengthen ties with friendly and allied European countries.
The Balkan region has not remained immune to new rearrangements of routes that receive gas from Russia. Earlier this year, on January 1, Gazprom began supplying Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina through the Turkish Stream. The new interconnection allows gas to flow into Central Europey from the south. The question that remains unresolved is, does that mean the complete exclusion of the possibility of supplying Bosnia and Herzegovina with the gas pipeline that has been coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina through Ukraine, Hungary and Serbia so far? It is indicative that in the first two months of 2021, the flow of gas from Hungary to Serbia decreased significantly due to the transfer of supply to the Turkish stream. Gazprom’s strategy is to increase supplies to the EU, as Europe is still the most lucrative market for Russia. Meanwhile, this state-owned Russian company is working on increased exports to other countries, in order to improve both exports and its negotiating position towards Europe. On the other hand, Gazprom is also developing a gas supply strategy to China, where it wants to increase its market share by 2035 in order to become the first supplier there as well, thus securing its exports independently of the European Union. Turkey is strategically using its geographical position for future positioning to become an important transit country for gas from the Middle East, Iran and the Caspian region to Europe.
Decision making process in defining energy dynamics
Political decision – making, especially superpowers such as the United States, the European Union, Russia and China, are the result of the overall power behind those decisions, primarily political, military and economical. Decision – making from such high levels, in addition to great responsibility for all mankind, implies a complex institutional process in the state hierarchies themselves. When making these decisions, they consider all the available factors in each situation and nothing is left by chance. The smallest detail can represent a large whole. Such decisions are also part of the plan, which in turn leads to the achievement of strategic goals. Political theory has also divided the process of state decisions into three parts:
1. Program decisions: They are made after careful consideration of the stated goals and consideration of alternatives.
2. Crisis decisions: They are made at a time of serious threat for which there was no planning, with a little luxury of weather crisis decisions ad hoc responses may be required.
3. Tactical Decisions: These decisions arise from program decisions. Tactical decisions are subject to revision, revaluation and modification, depending on the outcomes.
In the last 15 years, the three main decision – making processes have defined the energy dynamics in the EU, but also in the world. After Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine in 2006, the European Union took its energy policy more seriously. Russia used the halt to deliveries as a form of diplomatic competence after previous negotiations failed. Or, like the European Union’s approach, this could have been a decision to encourage change, which was ultimately indirect, long – term, effective and more persuasive. Russia has made a better negotiating position with the strategic move of using energy power in relation to other European countries, in order to achieve political goals. This led the European Union in 2009 to take action to respond to possible supply crises. The European Commission’s “Energy 2020” strategy (adopted in 2010) called for mutual cooperation between national distribution networks, which meant that members were ready to share gas in the event of a shortage. Given the way Russia uses the levers it has with energy resources, America signed a law under President Donald Trump imposing sanctions on any company that helps Russia’s state gas company Gazprom build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to the European Union. The sanctions expressed a clear position of the United States and confirmed the position of super leader in the world. The United States has thus shown that it is the most important participant in the decision – making process in the world. The lifting of sanctions followed a new international positioning under President Biden and the strengthening of ties with European allies.
Demonstration of Russia’s increased appetite for strategic risks in the field of gas supply is also becoming increasingly visible. Russia sees the EU as a source of increasing income and acts strategically in order to achieve economic and political goals, while, on the other hand, it develops markets oriented towards China. As much as Russian gas is needed in the world, so much Russian domination will be present. The same can be said for importers like the European Union, ie the more renewable energy sources and other non – Russian gas supply channels are developed, the better Europe will have a better international position.