Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Facebook Twitter YouTube Trending Globally Podcast Instagram Tumblr Email list

Energy and International Conflict

January 6, 2021

Jeff D. Colgan and Jan B. Stockbruegger co-wrote a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Energy Politics entitled "Energy and International Conflict," which focuses primarily on oil, the most important source of energy in the modern age, but also considers other sources of energy. 


How does energy shape international conflict? This new book chapter reviews the ways in which energy has contributed to modern international wars and conflicts. It pays particular attention to two key future strategic challenges: the continued military presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf, and strategic competition between the United States and China over China’s maritime oil supply routes in the South China Sea. The chapter focuses primarily on oil, the most important source of energy in the modern age, but also considers other sources of energy. It starts with World War I, the first war in which oil played a crucial role, and end with 21st century conflicts. This includes the impact of the 1973 oil crisis on international relations, wars caused by revolutionary petrostates such as Iraq and Iran, how oil contributed to the rise of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the role of energy in Russia’s assertive behavior in Europe and Syria.