The securitisation of energy

Think tank: RUSI

Author(s): Emily Ferris

November 9, 2023

This report from UK think tank RUSI examines how Russia’s energy policy has interacted with its foreign and defence policies since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia views as a serious security threat any restriction of its access to and exploitation of oil and gas markets, either through international sanctions that prevent Russia from accessing deep-water oil deposits, or the international climate change agenda that calls for a reduction on oil and gas production.

As a major oil and gas producer, Russia considers the hydrocarbons industry to be a key part of its political economy and therefore its national security, as well as its national identity. Moscow views its international prominence – in terms of its ability to have stake in foreign affairs – as bound up in its natural resource wealth. Russia claims that the West is seeking to undermine Russia’s political stability through its dominance of energy resources, and that international forums such as the UN operate against Russia’s national interests.

Russia also maintains that western efforts to cap oil production prices or curtail nuclear energy use are part of a campaign to undermine Russian values and exert a neo-liberal agenda. The war has intensified Moscow’s need to identify new export destinations, with rail and pipeline networks that were previously in train accelerated. But to do this, Russia must link up its oil and gas reserves with its maritime and rail infrastructure, including new terminals along the Northern Sea Route that can process LNG, coal and oil and updating port infrastructure, as well as new ice class vessels for exports. Investments in the North-South Corridor via Iran have also gained traction since the war, particularly to export oil and deliver on some of the practical elements of its foreign policy, by bringing Iran and India closer to Russia’s economic network.

Since the war, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s coordination through OPEC+ has become pressing – Riyadh has not aligned itself with the western consensus on Ukraine, nor has it sanctioned Russia. But the war lowered global energy prices, there are frictions over Russia’s refusal to publish its oil export figures, and Riyadh suspects that Russia continues to export significant volumes of oil despite their price agreements. Saudi Arabia has not criticised this, and instead has invested in Gazprom since the war began. Moscow often objects to international climate change efforts, because it prioritises Russia’s national security, not the security implications that can stem from climate issues. There is also a collective historical view that the natural environment does not have any intrinsic value in its own right. Climate change is framed as an issue that threatens Russia’s economic development, requiring technological or practical solutions, not adjustment to the extractives industries.