The Geoeconomics of the South Stream Pipeline Project

Energy trade has developed into one of the most contentious and divisive issues between Russia and the EU in the post-Cold War era. It reflects a broader geoeconomic struggle in which economic means are used to advocate geopolitical goals. This article argues that the case of the South Stream Pipeline Project (SSPP) - a grand project abruptly cancelled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2014 - epitomizes these power politics. In 2014, Russian leadership advanced both geopolitical and geoeconomic strategies towards the EU: pursuing the former by conducting a military campaign in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine; and pursuing the latter by pyshing the construction of SSPP in spite of the EU's legal and political objections. Due to Russian military aggression in Ukraine, however, the EU was able to harden its line on SSPP. Russian geoeconomic activity has long been successful as a centrifugal, dividing power within the EU. The geopolitical campaign in Ukraine, in stark contrast, has been a centripetal force, resulting in increased EU unity that contributed to the SSPP's demise. This is evidence that claims of geoeconomics as a continuation of war by other means are potentially misleading. The means of geopolitical power projection and geoeconomic power projection thus have notably different effects in today's contemporary, interconnected world.