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Black Gold and BlackmailOil and Great Power Politics$
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Rosemary A. Kelanic

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748295

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748295.001.0001

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The Ubiquity of Oil

The Ubiquity of Oil

(p.1) Introduction The Ubiquity of Oil
Black Gold and Blackmail

Rosemary A. Kelanic

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the relationship between oil and great power politics. For over a hundred years, oil has been ubiquitous as both an object of political intrigue and a feature of everyday life, yet its effects on the behavior of major powers remain poorly understood. This book focuses on one particular aspect of oil: its coercive potential. Across time and space, great powers have feared that dependence on imported petroleum might make them vulnerable to coercion by hostile actors. They worry that an enemy could cut off oil to weaken them militarily or punish them economically, and then use this threat as a basis for political blackmail. Oil is so essential to great powers that taking a state's imports hostage could give an enemy significant leverage in a dispute. The book presents the first systematic framework to understand how fears of oil coercion shape international affairs. Great powers counter prospective threats with costly and risky policies that lessen vulnerability, ideally, before the country can be targeted. These measures, which can be called “anticipatory strategies,” vary enormously, from self-sufficiency efforts to actions as extreme as launching wars.

Keywords:   oil politics, great powers, imported petroleum, political blackmail, oil coercion, oil policies, anticipatory strategies

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