Russia’s 2020 Energy Strategy: How the Kremlin’s Hydrocarbon Playbook Continues to Challenge Transatlantic Security



Benjamin L. Schmitt, Harvard University

Date and Time

June 2, 2020 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM


Open to the public.

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Virtual Seminar

* Please note all CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone


Seminar Recordings:


About the Event: If Russia’s 2020 energy activities have appeared chaotic, there is good reason. The Kremlin has taken actions that appear to upend Western expectations, forged over the past decade, that Moscow uses its oil reserves to generate state revenues, and gas exports for political leverage, malign influence, and elite capture. For years, U.S. and European policymakers braced for what appeared to be an inevitable gas crisis in Europe at the outset of 2020, that would be precipitated by a Russian cutoff of the Ukrainian gas transmission system facilitated by Gazprom’s diversionary pipeline proposals: Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream. Instead, EU regulatory action and U.S. sanctions legislation mitigated the immediate threat of an encore performance of the 2009 Russian gas cutoff of Ukraine. Nevertheless, with the global COVID-19 crisis raging, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken actions in the energy sector toward Belarus, the Balkan region, Ukraine, global oil producers, and even off the Antarctic coastline that fundamentally challenge the assumptions of the previous decade, and are destined to shape thinking about Russia’s energy challenges to Transatlantic strategic security interests for years to come. 


About the Speaker: Benjamin L. Schmitt, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Project Development Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he focuses on the development of instrumentation and infrastructure for next-generation Antarctic experimental cosmology facilities at the South Pole. From 2015-2019 Benjamin served as European Energy Security Advisor at the U.S. Department of State where he advanced diplomatic engagement vital to the energy and national security interests of the Transatlantic community, with a focus on supporting Ukraine and other nations along NATO’s Eastern Flank facing Russian malign energy activities. Benjamin has been an invited lecturer on European energy security and horizonal energy technologies, most recently with the Harvard Ukraine Research Institute, Harvard Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and National Defense University. He continues to publish energy security analysis, including with the Atlantic Council, Harvard International Review, and Center for European Policy Analysis. Schmitt regularly provides expert transatlantic security policy commentary for both print and television media, including with the New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Daily Beast, Voice of America, Germany’s Bild Zeitung, and Ukraine’s Kyiv Post. Benjamin is the current Amicus Poloniae Award laureate, a recognition by the Government of the Republic of Poland for outstanding efforts to promote development of cooperation between the Republic of Poland and the United States of America, and has received both Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of State. Before entering government, Schmitt served as a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow while pursuing doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on direct imaging of the Cosmic Microwave Background, for which he received both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in experimental physics. Schmitt has also previously served as a U.S. Fulbright Research Fellow to the Max-Planck-Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. 



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