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Oil has long been used as a geopolitical weapon. Could electrified transport change that?

Petroleum industry associated with wild price swings and armed conflict by Andre Mayer.

"Take Russia. In his new book, Price Wars: How the Commodities Markets Made Our Chaotic World, Rupert Russell explains how in the '70s and '80s, the Soviet Union manipulated the price of its petroleum exports to Eastern Bloc countries in order to ensure their loyalty during the Cold War. More recently, Russia has used such tactics with former Soviet states like Belarus and Ukraine.

If you're using the "gas weapon," Russell told CBC News, you "don't have to mobilize armies. The whole system is set up. All you have to do is change the price and you can exercise this political lever."

Russell also demonstrates a connection between high oil prices and militarism. Citing research by University of Denver professor Cullen Hendrix, Russell writes that rises in oil prices increase the chances that petro-states like Venezuela or Iran will engage in a militarized dispute (usually on their border).

Higher oil prices provide these countries with more money, which they use to strengthen their armed forces. To hedge against any political blowback, they also build up their holdings of foreign currencies and buy off their domestic opposition, Russell says.

Russia's incursions into Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 coincided with high oil prices. The invasion in Ukraine in February began when oil prices were hovering around $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "was just waiting for the commodities prices to go up again," said Russell.

He said that even in the face of strong international sanctions, a petro-state like Russia can still sell oil and gas — either through loopholes or by smuggling it out — because high prices are a sign there's "strong global demand for those commodities."

Read the article on CBC.


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