Russia's Regions and Energy Policy in East Siberia
Olcott, Martha Brill
In recent years, Russia’s enormous reserves of strategic natural resources have played a central role in the country’s economic rebirth and its reassertion of geopolitical influence. Much of these resources are concentrated in the vast and remote areas of the Russian territory, in regions significantly distant from Moscow. As a result, tensions exist between regional elites and the leaders in the Kremlin and the Russian White House over the question of who controls the development of these resources, particularly with regard to the highly profitable energy reserves. Since Vladimir Putin came to power, he has sought to assert central government control over regional development strategies in oil and gas-rich areas, as well as consolidating Russia’s energy industry by making regional and private firms subordinate to the state-owned corporations Gazprom and Rosneft. In East Siberia, where Putin is increasingly concerned with the prospect of the region ceding to Chinese control, he has sought various means to bring economic development, and particularly the development of energy resources, back under strong central authority. Power struggles between local authorities and elites in East Siberia and the federal government in Moscow have ensued, and the ongoing conflict between the two parties has had marked effects on resource development in the distant region. This paper discusses the recent political and economic events that frame the current situation in East Siberia, with a particular focus on the Irkutsk region, one of the key places in the federal government’s resource development strategies.