Energy Disputes between Russia and Ukraine Since 2014: a Tool of War by Other Means or Institutionally Constrained?

Eric Pardo

With the onset of the Euromaidan, energy relations between Russia and Ukraine were necessarily affected by a new context where both countries entered a period of armed confrontation. This context presents the best occasion to consider the hypothesis of the politicisation of energy relations, a contentious topic widely discussed in the literature devoted to energy in the post-Soviet space. Our guiding question might be: was energy used as a tool of war by other means in a context of war relations between Russia and Ukraine? In parallel to this, we will consider whether in spite of this context, chances to use energy as a tool to retaliate against an opponent were constrained by the contractual institution that determines energy relations between both countries. To provide an answer, I will process-trace the period starting from 2014 and consider the main delivery suspensions of natural gas from the side of Gazprom, matching them with the main turning points of the still ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and analysing the arguments used from both sides either to justify price revisions, retain payments or enforce fuel delivery suspensions. This way, we may extract valuable lessons as for the way mutual relations are constructed and either politicized or de-politicized depending on the circumstances. This may provide a guide to consider how energy relations may evolve in the coming future, especially if diplomatic relations stay in their current stage since Russia decided to annex the Peninsula of Crimea and support separatist militias in the Donbass region.

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