Ukraine in Russian Energy Chains: Threat or Temptation?

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Scholars and pundits have often discussed Russia’s use of energy as a weapon and element of threat against post-Soviet states such as Ukraine. The current European energy supply crunch against the background of Russia's pressure for certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline brings these issues to the top of the EU and Transatlantic agenda. Yet the threat of Russia’s energy power cannot be fully understood without also understanding the temptation Russian energy has meant for many within these states –from the temptation of corruption-related profits to transportation fee income to subsidized prices–, benefits acquired through participation in the value chains of Russian energy exports.  It is this tension between energy threat and temptation in the arch between Vladivostok and Brussels –and involving myriad actors in Russia, post-Soviet states, and the European Union –  that creates the puzzle this book seeks to solve. In this presentation, Margarita M. Balmaceda, author of Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Columbia, 2021), will present an overview of how this tension between (participating in the value chains of) Russian energy as threat and as temptation affected Ukraine’s political development and its international entanglements. On this basis, she will also explore the traps that particularly profitable ways of participating in Russia’s energy value chains actually create for Ukraine as the world and particularly the EU move into an increasingly liberalized and decarbonized energy future.


Margarita M. Balmaceda is a political scientist working at the intersection of international relations, the political economy of authoritarianism and democracy, and technology, with a special expertise in energy politics (oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, renewables), and commodities -- especially steel and the metallurgical sector-- in Ukraine, the former USSR, and the EU. She has a PhD  in Politics from Princeton University and is Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. Concurrently, she heads the Study Group on “Energy materiality: Infrastructure, Spatiality and Power” at the Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg (Germany) and is an Associate at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard.  Capitalizing on her Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian and German skills, in addition to her native Spanish, she has conducted extensive field research in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Hungary, Germany and Finland. Her new book, Russian Energy Chains: the Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Columbia University Press, 2021), analyzes how differences in the material characteristics of different types of energy can affect how different types of energy may be “used” as sources of  foreign and domestic power. She is currently developing a project on metallurgy, conflict and political development and struggling through courses at the World Steel Association’s Steel University.


Robert Orttung is a Research Professor at IERES and the Director of Research for Sustainable GW. He is editor of Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Demokratization and co-editor of the Russian Analytical Digest. His research focuses on issues of urban sustainability in the Arctic.

This event is on the record and open to the media.