Theses defended

(Re)sources for conflict and cooperation in the Caspian - Black Sea region: The impact of energy dynamics

Roxana Gabriela Andrei

Public Defence date
March 22, 2021
Doctoral Programme
International Politics and Conflict Resolution
Maria Raquel Freire
The annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the following conflict in Eastern Ukraine was assumed to lock the door between the EU and Russia. Yet, even at the peak of the political conflict between them, the natural gas continued to flow in the background, from Russia, via Ukraine, and further to the European consumers. Even more, in December 2019, Kiev and Moscow signed a new gas deal providing for the continuation of the Russian gas transit through Ukraine. During the same timeframe, Russia and Turkey engaged in a diplomatic and political dispute that froze their relations for almost one year, while choosing to stand on opposing positions in the military conflicts in Syria and Libya. Nonetheless, the two countries continued with their common project and built the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline. The Turkish Stream has been depicted as a geopolitical rival of the EU-backed Southern Gas Corridor, yet neither Brussels, nor Moscow have opposed or criticised the other party's project. The narratives around the EU's dependence on Russian gas imports have become increasingly politicised in recent years warning about Europe's vulnerability to disruptions and the misuse of gas as a weapon by Moscow. However, the EU imports and uses less natural gas than oil in its energy mix and its gas demand is expected to decrease further, after a short growth caused by the decline in its own production. Intrigued by these contradictions, I research in this thesis how conflict and cooperation have been employed by the key energy players in the Caspian-Black Sea region and I argue that conflict and cooperation do not exclude each other, that they co-exist in a conflict-cooperation perpetuum. The new conceptual tool is particularly useful to explain why the players engaged in a political conflict are able to simultaneously cooperate in the energy field. Noting that neither the Southern Gas Corridor, nor the Turkish Stream fulfil the energy security needs of their proponents, the EU, Russia and Turkey, I propose using the theoretical framework of ontological security in order to unveil the deeper layer of their existential motivations that, in addition to the material considerations, underpin their decisions and behaviour, and shape the complex relationships between them.

Keywords: conflict and cooperation; energy security; ontological security; Southern Gas Corridor; Turkish Stream