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The new energy Cold War: How Europe and Russia are facing off in the 21st century

Samuel R. Schubert
Webster University Vienna
Johannes Pollak
Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna
Samuel R. Schubert
Webster University Vienna
Open Panel

Abstract

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, Europe and Russia are once again facing off in a new geopolitical competition. Instead of ideological conflict over statist and free market economies, the two historic adversaries are competing for control over energy resources in Central Asia and at stake is the very independence of Europe. In pursuit of its 2020 goal, the EU embarked on an active program to gain access to natural gas from the Caspian littoral and Persian Gulf by developing a series of programs and funding a new and expensive pipeline network, the so-called southern corridor. Its goal: to widen the fourth energy import corridor, one that bypasses Russia and reduces the latter’s capability to pressure its neighbors and Europe, while simultaneously strengthening its position as a regional power. Meanwhile, Russia has moved to counter the EU strategy by developing alternative pipelines (e.g. South Stream, White Stream, Nord Stream) that aim to reduce the profitability of EU plans and maintain a stranglehold on its primary export market. The outcome of this struggle will determine the European energy market for decades. Who is involved, what are the stakes, and which are the likely outcomes especially for the project of building a common European energy market? This paper will address these questions and determine whether we are really looking at a new Cold War, or rather just an uncomfortable rivalry that may benefit all of its involved stakeholders.