Margarita Balmaceda

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Political Science
Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, South Orange

Research project

Chains of Value, Chains of Power: Russian Energy, Value Chains and the Remaking of Social Relations from Vladivostok to Brussels


The Chains of Value, Chains of Power project brings insights from anthropology, critical geography and logistics to bear on a key Political Science question: in which ways can natural resources be used as means of international power? With Russia a key energy supplier to both its post-Soviet neighbors and the EU, it makes much sense to use this case to shed light on this larger question.


Most research on the issue has focused on the (Russian) state’s role as (near) energy monopolist, and using a view of energy power based on power as influence (Dahl’s "power over"). This project presents an alternative view: energy is power not only because it can provide a state power "over" other states or actors, but because of the ways in which its constitutive elements (Duvall’s "power to") affect a much broader set of actors and social relations. Thus, in order to understand the influence aspects of energy power, it is also necessary to understand its constitutive elements, i.e., the way it helps constitute and organize social actors.


This project will study this issue on the basis of case studies of the value chains of three key hydrocarbon exports from Russia to former Soviet states and the EU: oil, gas and coal, on the basis of case studies of exemplary value chains linking producers in Russia, transit and processing actors, and final consumers. Indeed, to reach consumers in the EU, oil, gas and coal from Russia must not only travel thousands of miles from their production sites and transit through states various relations with Russia, but also go through production processes largely determined by the physical characteristics of each energy commodity.


Echoing anthropologist Appadurai’s (1986) insight that "commodities, like persons, have social lives", these distinct processes are not simply technological, but have political implications. They matter as they affect the ways in which different commodities may (or not) be used as "weapons" by a supplier, but also through the way they help constitute social relations within their states, and networks of actors across borders. This perspective is missing from discussions of Russia’s energy role, which have focused overwhelmingly on state power; little theoretical work exists analyzing how different energy commodities can be used differently by states (or other actors) as foreign policy tools. Combining both perspectives, this book project promises to provide key new insights on European energy security—and on our understanding of energy’s role in international relations.




Margarita Balmaceda is Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University and Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. She holds a Ph.D in Political Science from Princeton University. A specialist on the comparative energy politics of the post-Soviet states, she has conducted multiple field research trips to Eastern Europe and the former USSR, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Hungary and Moldova.


Selected publications


Living the High Life in Minsk: Russian Energy Rents, Domestic Populism and Belarus’

Impending Crisis, Central European University Press, Budapest/New York, 2014.


The Politics of Energy Dependency: Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania Between Domestic Oligarchs and Russian Pressure, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2013.


'Privatization and Elite Defection in De Facto States: The Case of Transnistria, 1991-2012', Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol. 46, no. 4, 2013, pp. 445-454.


Energy Dependency, Politics and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union: Russia’s Power,

Oligarch’s Profits and Ukraine’s Missing Energy Policy, 1995-2006, Routledge, London/New York, 2008; 2nd edition (paperback), 2012.


Belarus: Oil, Gas, Transit Pipelines and Russian Foreign Energy Policy, GMB Publishing, London, 2006.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Studies of Science and Technology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Cultural Studies