Editorial Note: On his landmark visit toSaudi Arabia, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the two countries partners, not rivals, saying, "RussiaandSaudi Arabiaare the world's leading energy producers and exporters, and here it is easy for us to find common ground." InQatar, the Russian leader noted, "gas producers should coordinate their activities." King Abdullah, for his part, told Putin: "The two countries enjoy huge economic potentials, vast natural resources and a variety of investment opportunities apart from a distinguished cultural heritage. They also enjoy huge political influence at the world stage. This will contribute to taking our mutual cooperation to new heights within a strategic perspective."Russia's energy diplomacy is in full swing-but to what end? Last year, Flynt Leverett and Pierre Noel discussed Russian energy strategy, and in light of Putin'sMiddle Easttour, TNI is offering these excerpts from their essay:
While Washington is preoccupied with curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, avoiding policy failure in Iraq and cheering the "forward march of freedom", the political consequences of recent structural shifts in global energy markets are posing the most profound challenge to American hegemony since the end of the Cold War. The most strategically significant manifestation, though, is Russia's willingness to use its newfound external leverage to counteract what Moscow considers an unacceptable level of U.S. infringement on its interests.
We describe these political consequences of recent structural shifts in global energy markets by the shorthand "petropolitics." While each of these developments is challenging to U.S. interests, the various threads of petropolitics are now coming together in an emerging "axis of oil" that is acting as a counterweight to American hegemony on a widening range of issues.