Against a backdrop of fluctuating global energy markets and international environmental concern, this paper analyses the prospects for developing hydrocarbon deposits on the Russian continental shelf. In particular, it draws on a case study of Russian hydrocarbon activities in the Barents region, based on official policy documents and legal texts, and statements made by government officials and oil and gas companies.

The study lays bare the current political dynamics around resource extraction in Russia, with a focus on the interplay between the Kremlin, gas giant Gazprom, and a range of foreign players. It also analyses how investment in a particular project is affected by the larger geopolitical, ideological and economic context in which it takes place.

The paper also places the discussion in a historical context via a review of Russian and western literature, which reveals Russia’s shifting relationship to the Arctic over the past 60 years.