Evaluating the Role of U.S. Foreign Policy Institutions in Permitting a Coercive Russian Energy Policy

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Since 1991, the Russian Federation has repeatedly curtailed natural gas deliveries to European states for geopolitical reasons. The Soviet Union, however, never once cut off natural gas supplies to Europe during the Cold War.

While other scholars attribute the rise of Russia’s energy weapon to Russian institutions, geopolitics and individuals, this thesis expands upon an underdeveloped explanation by examining the role that institutions of U.S. foreign policy may have played during the Cold War in permitting Russia’s aggressive energy policy today.

Recently declassified documents reveal that President Nixon’s response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo forced institutions U.S. foreign policy to effectively respond to the rise energy threat. However, by concentrating focus on oil security in the Middle East, the administration established an institutional blind spot on natural gas in Europe. The very same institutions that exhibited a blind spot also experienced institutional atrophy under the Carter administration.

Decisions made during the Reagan administration compounded on institutional failures. By sanctioning European companies, the Reagan administration prevented practical institutional exchange between American diplomats and their European counterparts on issues of energy security for nearly a decade.

When the collapse of the Soviet Union was imminent, the institutional blind spot and lack of institutional exchange laid the groundwork for institutions of U.S. foreign policy to permit Russia’s aggressive foreign energy policy today.


Type of resource text
Date created May 2017


Author Horan, Wyatt Brody
Advisor Blacker, Coit D.


Subject Soviet Union
Subject Russian Federation
Subject Energy
Subject Natural Gas
Subject Pipelines
Subject Cold War
Subject OPEC
Subject Energy Crisis
Genre Thesis

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Horan, Wyatt Brody. (2017). Evaluating the Role of U.S. Foreign Policy Institutions in Permitting a Coercive Russian Energy Policy. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: http://purl.stanford.edu/bb782yf9388


Stanford University, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Interschool Honors Program in International Security Studies, Theses

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