In her new book, “Power, Energy, and the New Russian Imperialism,” Anita Orban, the director of the Budapest-based Constellation Energy Institute, argues that the Kremlin’s foreign policy can be almost entirely pinned to the strength of Russia’s energy exports.
“This is the first comprehensive book which argues that Russia is using national energy companies as a tool of its foreign policy vis-a-vis countries who are NATO and EU members, like Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary,” Orban told Radio free Europe.
Orban’s central argument is that Russian energy companies are the vehicle for a reassertion of Soviet-era influence in Central and Eastern Europe.
“When we look back at the last 20 years, we can see periods where Russian energy companies were very active in Central-Eastern Europe,” says Orban. “And all these periods are when the Russian state was strong enough… financially to be able to use these companies and to execute its foreign policy aims.”
With energy prices in steep decline, Orban thinks the Kremlin will be forced to scale back its ambitions, while still pursuing the planned South Stream natural gas pipeline, which would transport Russian natural gas under the Black Sea to Europe, while enhancing “the dependence [on Russia]of the whole Southeastern European region – Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia,Hungary — and also the neighboring countries…for several decades.”
Meanwhile, a new report estimates the pipeline could cost $24 million Euros. And Bloomberg says Gazprom is delaying gas deliveries through South Stream by up to two years, due to the current economic crisis.