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Departures Podcast with Margarita Balmaceda

Throughout the most recent intensifying conflict between Russia and the West over Ukraine, there is a common assumption that the Russian leadership is wielding its “energy weapon” to break apart European unity and advance its interests.

While that may be partly true, it would be a huge mistake to assume that such a vast industrial chain of inputs, labor, refining, and transportation of these goods lay in the hands of so few people, argues Prof. Margarita Balmaceda in her new book, “Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics From Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union.”

In her conversation with Robert Amsterdam, Dr. Balmaceda of Seton Hall University argues that for many, the flow of Russian energy exports of oil, gas, and coal often represent opportunities which are happily exploited more than constraints and threats as energy weapons.

The rise of numerous Ukrainian oligarchs who took advantage of energy transit were able to transfer this to political influence, forever shaping regional dynamics that we can see playing out today, among numerous other examples. Oil and gas certainly are the lifeblood of Russian politics – but it is not a force under the sole discretion of Vladimir Putin.