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The Bridge Reviews

The Bridge by Thane Gustafson

The Bridge: Natural Gas in a Redivided Europe

Thane Gustafson

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 31 Jan 2020
ISBN: 9780674987951

Europe and Russia are pushing against each other in a contest of economic doctrines and political ambitions, seemingly erasing the vision of cooperation that emerged from the end of the Cold War. Thane Gustafson argues that natural gas serves as a bridge over troubled geopolitical waters, uniting the region through common economic interests.

4 stars out of 5
10 Sep 2020

"Thane Gustafson’s account of the building of the Russian-European energy alliance is impressively detailed. "

Thane Gustafson’s account of the building of the Russian-European energy alliance is impressively detailed. The first pipelines between Russia and Europe were laid in the late 1960s, soon after the extent of the gas reserves in Siberia became clear. Soviet planners immediately saw the benefit of pipelines to Europe. Natural gas would be a boon for industrialising the state, but the USSR had more than it could use and lacked the capital necessary to pursue development on its own. Any ideological qualms, on either side, would have to bow to strategic necessity. Gustafson lays out the story of the creation of what is now Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, avoiding easy Russophobia. He has great admiration for the gazoviki who designed the system, especially Aleksei Kortunov, who developed the Siberian gas reserves in the 1960s under the sponsorship of Aleksei Kosygin, a senior Politburo member, and Nikolai Baibakov, chairman of the state planning committee. Kortunov designed the industry that modernised the Soviet Union’s internal energy system and Kosygin opened the breach in the Iron Curtain that allowed Siberian gas to flow to Europe. The first pipeline to Austria opened in 1968, unaffected by the invasion of Czechoslovakia. West Germany supplied the steel.


4 stars out of 5
Ed Crooks
24 Jan 2020

"Thane Gustafson demonstrates the realpolitik of energy supply in geopolitical relations with Russia"

The Bridge, a richly detailed analysis written with a relaxed, lucid style, justifies that decision. One of Gustafson’s central themes is the way that economics have often trumped politics in the European gas trade. The first deal to import Russian gas through the Iron Curtain was signed by Austria in 1969 after huge reserves were discovered in western Siberia, and between 1970 and 1990 Soviet gas exports to western Europe soared from about 1bn cubic metres a year to about 60bn.