This article is free to access.
The aim of this article is to explain why and how two formerly hostile states such as the USSR and West Germany concluded a gas deal in 1970 that lasted not only the 20 years that had been initially contracted, but until 2022. Based on new documents from Russian archives, this paper will analyse how natural gas for the Politburo turned from a minor natural resource to a worthy political tool and a ‘soft power’. While the Soviet gas minister had already advocated the global sale of gas in 1966 and the Politburo used it in 1966 itself as a means to bind Austria to its sphere of influence, Moscow changed its mind towards West Germany only in 1969 due to political developments. In order to bring Willy Brandt to power, put China in its place and teach Italy a lesson, Moscow changed its policy towards West Germany from risk avoidance to danger containment. Both sides independently developed the idea that binding the other's market to their own would prevent the partner from imposing another embargo (the West) or stopping deliveries (the USSR). The entanglement of markets was supposed to serve as a guarantee for the reliability of the respective contractor – the result of which we see today.
Schattenberg, S. (2022). Pipeline Construction as “Soft Power” in Foreign Policy. Why the Soviet Union Started to Sell Gas to West Germany, 1966–1970. Journal of Modern European History, 20(4), 554–573. https://doi.org/10.1177/16118944221130222