Challenging ideas
On Turkish politics and International affairs

Insight Turkey > Articles |

Russian Energy Policy in the Middle East

Following the fallout between Russia and the West, Moscow embarked on a strategy to make its energy industry a foreign policy tool. In this context, it engaged Turkey in an effort to assert itself in the European market and solidify control over it. Looking to implement its pivot to the East, Russia has also sought to become a major energy producer in Asia by squeezing competitors out of the region. The Middle East came into the spotlight for Moscow when it decided to hedge its bets in the energy sector and gain more control over global markets. To that end, Russia pursued mutually beneficial cooperation with the GCC states to make the market more predictable. Russia has also come forward as a major energy supplier for former Soviet clients in the Middle East.

Russian Energy Policy in the Middle East
President Putin, met with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, at the Kremlin on October 5, 2017. AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / ALEXEY NIKOLSKY

Soviet Energy Overtures to the Middle East

 

Despite the USSR’s abundance of energy resources, historically this factor has not been the dominant one in the country’s foreign policy. Traditionally driven by ideology and often lacking in pragmatism, Soviet foreign policy has typically attempted to counter Western “imperialistic” expansion, with the Middle East being the primary battleground for ideological face-offs. With regional states leaning toward one or the other of the political camps during the Cold War, the USSR’s strategy in the Middle East focused on winning the allegiance of local elites, and although various instruments were employed, energy was rarely one of them. 

The “pre-oil era” in the Middle East was marked by paradoxical political developments that seem nearly impossible today. For instance, the communist Soviet Union enjoyed a warm relationship with the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, and became the first state to recognize it, while Moscow’s envoy to the Kingdom, Karim Khakimov, was a personal friend of its founder Ibn Saud. Soviet-Saudi relations turned sour after Khakimov was executed in Moscow, which happened two months before the discovery of the largest deposit of oil in the world in March 1938 in Saudi Arabia. Arguably, had the Soviets not killed their sole link to the Saudi King and by extension to his gigantic oil wealth, the Middle East might well look very different today.

Already have an account? Sign In.
Print Subscription
4 Print Issues
Subscribe
Digital Subscription
4 Digital Issues
Subscribe
Premium Subscription
4 Print Issues
4 Digital Issues
Subscribe

Labels »