The Russian incursion upon the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula has now altered the global political alignment. As the West has placed forth increasing pressure on Russia, the Russian government is now looking eastward to China.
Because of Russia’s growing state-owned oil and gas industry, they are able to impose significant influence throughout Eurasia. In fact, the European Union (EU) gets about one third of its oil and gas from Russia—which has complicated diplomacy on the Russian intervention of Ukraine.
Currently, with growing pressure from Europe and the United States, Russia is seeking to close a natural gas supply deal with China. The deal would be a huge victory for Russia, allowing them to further strengthen their influence in Asia. Moreover, China accounts for the world’s largest energy demand and Russia would be able to disregard further isolation from the West.
Although China has not yet finalized the natural gas supply deal, Russia seems optimistic.
During a United Nations Security Council vote for a draft resolution declaring the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine as invalid, China chose to abstain from voting. However, it is worth noting that the Chinese understand their favorable position and plan to make use of it.
China has already overtaken Germany as the largest buyer of Russian crude oil, but now seeks cheaper prices from Russia for the natural gas supply deal to be finalized. Tension between Russia and the EU has placed Europe’s energy supply at risk; Russia has already cut off energy supply from Ukraine multiple times and the EU is now seeking more energy security.
With the shale gas revolution, the natural gas industry in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years and has ramped up their political affairs accordingly. Disregarding the environmental concerns associated with the natural gas industry—such as further exacerbating climate change—the natural gas industry seeks to utilize the delicate diplomatic situation as an opportunity for expansion.
Lobbying efforts to the U.S. government have been successful enough to guide the administration’s stance on Russia. However, the expansion of natural gas also garners concern due to the U.S.’s role in reaching a global emissions reduction deal. The United Nations aims to reach an emissions reduction deal by 2015 so that international diplomacy can allow for climate change to be alleviated before the effects become too irreversible.
A successful diplomatic agreement will require for renewable sources to expand with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emitting energy sources such as natural gas.
Regardless of the necessity for an agreement to be reached, the natural gas industry is very likely to expand to the EU. According to the New York Times, “The administration’s strategy is to move aggressively to deploy the advantages of its new resources to undercut Russian natural gas sales to Ukraine and Europe, weakening such moves by Mr. Putin in future years.”
If the U.S. is able to account for the EU’s energy demand with natural gas exports, Russia will be forced to move towards finalizing a supply deal with China. China also opposes the spread of Western-style democracy, which strengthens the practicality of relations with Russia.
As the situation of Russian intervention in Ukraine continues to expand, significant geo-political shifts are expected. The narrative of a rising East may also be manifesting itself—opening avenues for further tension between Western and Eastern nations to develop as a result.
At first glance, Russian intervention in Ukraine seems comprehensible, but their actions are tied heavily into complex geo-political ambitions. Thus far, the incursion has sparked tension in global diplomacy. However, the tension can be expected to expand to other areas of diplomacy such as in reaching a global climate agreement.
Sources: Reuters, Reuters, The New York Times, ICTSD