Next to national defense, energy security has become a primary issue for the survival and wellbeing of both developed and developing nations. A review of the literature shows how concerns for energy security acquired a new dimension after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the Western powers and a weakened Russia competed for the control of the Eurasia region and its energy resources. Research has also focused on how different countries have developed a variety of strategies for securing their energy supply. Energy security literature can be split into three general sections: neoclassical economics and public choice, bureaucratic politics and public administration, and political economy. Scholars have also explored regime theory, resource conflict, and the relationship between national energy security and foreign policy. In the case of the United States, four major challenges in foreign policy issues related to energy security can be identified: “building alliances, strengthening collective energy security, asserting its interests with energy suppliers, and addressing the rise of state control in energy.” These challenges require eight specific foreign policy responses from the U.S. government, two of which constitute the core relationship between energy security and foreign policy making: “candor and respect” for the producer countries, and foreign policies that promote the stability and security of suppliers.
The political economy of violent conflict is a body of literature that investigates how economic issues and interests shape the dynamics associated to violent conflict after the Cold War. The literature covers an area of research focusing on civil wars—the predominant type of conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s—and an area of research focusing on other types of violent conflict within states, such as permanent emergencies, criminal violence, and political violence associated to turbulent transitions. The first area involves four themes that have come to characterize discussions on the political economy of civil wars, including research on the role of greed and grievance in conflict onset, on economic interests in civil wars, on the nature of conflict economies, and on conflict financing. The second area responds to the evolution of violent conflict beyond the categories of “interstate” or “civil” war and shows how political economy research adapted to new types of violent conflict within states as it moved beyond the “post-Cold War” era. Overall, the literature on the political economy of violence conflict emphasizes the role of informal systems behind power, profits and violence, and the economic interests and functions of violence underlying to violent conflict. It has also become a conceptual laboratory for scholars who after years of field research tried to make sense of the realities of authoritarian, violent or war-affected countries. By extending the boundaries of the literature beyond the study of civil wars after the Cold War, political economy research can serve as an important analytical lens to better understand the constantly evolving nature of violent conflict and to inform sober judgment on the possible policy responses to them.