Russian Energy Politics in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine
December 1, 2004
This report argues that the current policies of the Russian government, under Vladimir Putin, pose a significant challenge to the development of transparent democratic governments and free markets in those countries dependent on Russia for their energy resources. Over the past few years, the Kremlin has increasingly used its energy monopoly to influence policies in the neighboring countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. Russia's national security interest, as defined by Putin, is to reestablish Moscow's control over strategic infrastructure in neighboring states. This control is to be used to ensure that there are friendly governments in place to support Russian security and economic interests. It would be an exaggeration to call Russian economic power projection imperialism, but the neocolonial characteristics of Russia's foreign energy policy are readily apparent to those living in the immediate neighborhood.
According to Keith Smith, the United States should take the lead in working with the EU and the Central Europeans to better understand the political and security risks that stem from Russia's use of energy as an instrument of foreign policy. The consolidation of transparent democracy and open markets in East-Central Europe would have a positive impact on the course of reform in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Therefore, it is in the long-term security interests of the United States and its allies to break the cycle of corruption and political influence that underlie Russia's foreign energy policy in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine.
Keith Smith is a senior associate in the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program, having served until recently as a consultant for an international energy company. He retired from the U.S. Department of State in 2000, where his career had focused primarily on European affairs. From 1997 to 2000, he was U.S. ambassador to Lithuania; previous posts in Europe included Hungary, Norway, and Estonia.