In This Review

Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics From Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union
Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics From Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union
By Margarita M. Balmaceda
Columbia University Press, 2021, 440 pp

Balmaceda criticizes the conventional understanding of Russian energy power that reduces it to a mere state-held weapon used by Moscow against the former Soviet states. Her own analysis is focused on value chains—the separate paths taken by Russian natural gas, oil, and coal from their production in Siberia, through Ukraine, and to consumers in the European Union. In the countries through which they pass, these value chains deeply permeate politics and business. For some important players, their country’s energy dependence on Russia may turn out to be an opportunity rather than a constraint. Ukraine’s major energy oligarchs are a striking example. Dmytro Firtash, Ihor Kolomoisky, and Rinat Akhmetov were able to build tremendous fortunes by extracting rents in the natural gas, oil, and coal sectors, respectively, and turn their wealth into political power. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s industrial capacity continued to decline, and its role as a transit country weakened. All three oligarchs remain powerful today, even as Russia has moved to drastically reduce Ukraine’s transit role by launching the Nord Stream project, which will bypass Ukraine and bring Russian gas directly to Germany through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea.