Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Russian and East European Studies

First Advisor

Kristin Bidoshi

Second Advisor

David Siegel


Russia, Foreign Policy, Vladimir Putin, Oligarchs, Crimea, Gazprom, Africa


This thesis examines how Russia uses its hydrocarbon resources as a foreign policy tool. As one of the most significant gas and oil producers in the world, Russia has gained enormous political power in many nations. In short, for many years, Russia has been building asymmetrical economic relationships with multiple countries, including countries in the European Union. Many of these countries have become partially or entirely dependent on Russian energy. It is true that financially, Russia profits enormously from hydrocarbon exports, but scholars also agree that for Russia, gaining political power by selling hydrocarbon resources is just as important. Another way of gaining political influence in a foreign country is to offer subsidies on energy exports. This tactic has been used primarily in former Soviet countries, mainly because their economies are rather weak.

We also know that corruption, informal politics, and Vladimir Putin's network of close acquaintances are deeply rooted in the contemporary Russian business culture. For example, Russian state-owned energy companies such as Gazprom, Rosneft, and Transneft all have Putin's close allies as board members. In other words, the Kremlin is able to directly control virtually all major Russian hydrocarbon exporters. Thus, we can ask "who really benefits from Russia's natural resources - the Russian nation or a selected group of influential businessmen close to the Kremlin?" In order to answer this question, Russia's role in Crimea and Africa will be analyzed. This thesis argues that no matter what business Russia does, including exporting cheap gas and oil in return for political influence, building gigantic infrastructural projects in Crimea, or selling arms in Africa, Putin's close allies always get their 'fair' share of the pie. Hence, it can be concluded that the Kremlin transfers state-owned wealth to the rich oligarchs, but Russian citizens also gain something from these transactions: geopolitical security abroad, which oftentimes translates to domestic security.



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