The importance of resources in international relations

I continue to attend my evening class in International Relations led by our lecturer Dr Dale Mineshima-Lowe. Normally we look at particular countries or regions. This week, however, we took a cross-cutting theme and discussed the impact of resources on international relations.

What sort of resources? Obviously oil, gas, and mineral resources (such as uranium) but also water, forestry and arable land.

How do such resources impact international relations?

  • Countries which have plentiful resources – such as Russia and Saudi Arabia – obtain international status and bargaining power as a result.
  • Countries which need such resources – such as the United States and China – have to develop relationships with those who have the resources.
  • Having the resource is not enough; a country needs the capital and expertise to access, refine and transport for instance oil and gas and this may well require dealing with multinational corporations with their own agendas.
  • The need for particular resources – especially rare earth metals – can be affected by technological developments such as the advent of computers and mobiles.
  • The need for particular resources – especially oil – might be reduced in future by the development of new power technologies.

Interesting stuff …

One Comment

  • Alexei

    I would like to add a few points to your conversation.

    Resource-rich nations need to invest into defense. The only reliable means of resource-hungry nations containment has been nuclear weapons and American missile defense initiatives make the existing balance very vulnerable.

    Another consideration: resource owners have a tendency to autocracy. I wonder why? 😉

    Thirdly, resource-poor countries have been historically more successful in innovation.


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