International Rivalry in The Energy Sector: The Eastern European Market of Atomic Energy in Focus

Yury V. Borovsky – PhD. Hist. Sci., associate professor of the Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia, MGIMO–University. E-mail:
Вся статья: 

DOI 10.24833/2071-8160-2017-4-56-114-129 (Read the article in PDF)

In the post-bipolar world nuclear power has become one of the areas of competition and rivalry between Russia and the West. The comprehensive analysis of theoretical publications allows us to consider international competition as an abstract, depoliticized contest of states and other international actors (including companies) for some limited (mainly economic) benefits. International rivalry is more a political process, necessarily involving some rival pairs of states (or groups of states) that compete with each other not only to get some benefits, but to expand their territory or power.

The competition and rivalry between Russia and the West in the sphere of nuclear power are especially apparent in the Eastern European region where the American, European and Japanese corporations, with the support of the Western foreign ministries and EU institutions, try to achieve two main goals. The first goal is to win the contracts to build new power units, especially in tenders where Rosatom participates. The second goal is to become suppliers of nuclear fuel for multiple Russian- or Soviet-made VVER-type reactors, which are functioning or will be run in a number of countries in the region (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Ukraine). Such activities can involve high risks. The West’s efforts to curb the dominant position of "Rosatom" in Eastern Europe are formally associated with the need to create a "competitive market" of nuclear services in the region and to ensure the European energy security. It is also noteworthy that the expansion of Rosatom (and its predecessors) to foreign markets, including Eastern Europe, is actively supported by the Russian state which in the second half of the 1990s – after a failed attempt of following in the footsteps of the West – joined in the rivalry, mostly imposed by the U.S. and their allies.

As shown by the analysis, Russia and the West, primarily the United States, are involved in the nuclear power sector to advance their economic interests, expressed in the success of their national corporations. However, they are also political rivals that consider the nuclear power industry generating billions of dollars and supplying energy to many countries as one of important geopolitical resources.

Keywords: nuclear energy, energy policy of Russia, EU energy policy, US energy policy, Eastern Europe, international rivalry, energy security.

1.    Istoria mezhdunarodnykh otnoshenii [The History of international Relations]. In 3 vol, Ed. by A.V. Torkunov, M.M. Narinsky. Moscow, Aspect Press Publ., 2012. Vol. 3. 553 p. (In Russian)
2.    Narinsky M.M. Istoria mezhdunarodnykh otnoshenii. 1945-1975 [The History of international Relations.1945-1975]. Moscow, ROSPEN Publ., 2004. 264 p. (In Russian)
3.    Christensen T. Useful Adversaries. New Jersey, Princeton University Publ., 1996. 352 p.
4.    Diehl P., Goertz G. War and Peace in International Rivalry. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press Publ., 2001. 336 p.
5.    Energy of the Future? Nuclear energy in Central and Eastern Europe. Ed. by K. Polanecký, J. Haverkamp. Prague, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Praha Publ., 2011. 60 p. Available at: (accessed: 27.03.2017).
6.    Garthoff R. Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan. Washington D.C., Brookings IP Publ., 1994. 1206 p.
7.    Gheorghe E. Building détente in Europe? East–West trade and the beginnings of Romania's nuclear programme, 1964–70. Revue européenne d'histoire, 13 June 2014, pp. 235-253. Available at: (accessed: 25.02.2017).
8.    Glaser C. Rational theory of international politics: the logic of competition and cooperation. New Jersey, Princeton University Publ., 2010. 328 p.
9.    Hensel P. An Evolutionary Approach to the Study of Interstate Rivalry. Conflict Management and Peace Science, 1999, vol. 17, no. 2, pp.175-206.
10.    Josephson P. Red Atom: Russias Nuclear Power Program From Stalin To Today. (Pitt Russian East European). Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press Publ., 2005. 352 p.
11.    Kraev K. Russia’s nuclear energy expansion – a geopolitical footprint? New Eastern Europe, 28.06.2016. Available at:
12.    Scott В. Security, Bargaining, and the End of Interstate Rivalry. International Studies Quarterly, 1996, no.:40 (2), pp. 157-183.
13.    Sturm R. Nuclear Power in Eastern Europe:  Learning or Forgetting Curves? Santa Monica, California, RAND Corporation, 2004. Available at:
14.    The Image of the Enemy: Intelligence Analysis of Adversaries since 1945. Ed. by P. Maddrell. Washington, Georgetown University Press Publ., 2015. 312 p.
15.    Thompson W. Principal Rivalries. Journal of Conflict Resolutions, 1995, no. 39, pp. 195-223.
16.    Wright Q. Problems of Stability and Progress in International Relations. Berkeley, University of California Press Publ., 1954. 378 p.
17.    Yarhi-Milo K. Knowing the Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence, and Assessment of Intentions in International Relations. New Jersey, Princeton University Press Publ., 2014. 360 p.