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Crude Security: Oil, Armament, and Alliance Open Access

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What role does oil play in the national security strategies of oil states? The current literature treats oil predominantly as a trigger for interstate conflicts and depicts oil-states as passive victims of states’ ceaseless search for wealth and security. Such a portrayal downplays the importance of oil state agency, leaving important questions about oil states unanswered. These include what types of national security strategies oil states pursue, when those strategies succeed, and why they sometimes fail. In this project, I argue that the political economy of oil is at the center of strategic opportunities, constraints, and behaviors of oil states, and that oil is not necessarily a security liability for oil states but is sometimes an invaluable security asset and a source for interstate security cooperation. To provide a theoretically grounded analytical framework, I divide national security strategies into armaments and alliances, identify key determinants for each strategy, and investigate when and how the political economy of oil informs and intervenes in determining these outcomes. First, I show that two factors account for oil’s diverse effects on the oil states’ armament policies. The geological endowment of oil determines the states’ military potential, while the management structure of oil revenue informs the state’s long-term developmental capacity and institutional effectiveness of the military. Using oil income data and the Resource Governance Index (RGI), I map a universe of oil producers according to these two criteria, and test the argument using case studies on Norway, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Second, I address oil’s role in oil states’ alliance strategies -- what I call petro-alignments. I first conceptualize the petro-alignment as an asymmetric alliance, or a security relation forged upon an exchange of autonomy concessions in oil states’ oil policies in return for the security benefits they receive from great power patrons. Two factors determine the level of this exchange. The first factor is oil producers’ market power, which I code as ‘price-stabilizer’, ‘price-upsetter’, and ‘price-follower’ according to the size of spare production capacity and market share. The second factor is geostrategic location, coded by a number of projection capabilities of great powers. I test the argument by conducting qualitative case studies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, and Ecuador. This dissertation makes important contributions to literature on the political economy of oil, international behaviors of oil states, and armament and alliance. The findings of this project also provide important insight for policymakers regarding regional security surrounding oil-rich states, strategic implications of the recent shale revolution and China’s rise, and the stability of the global oil market in general.

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