"The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows"

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Partner Meeting with the Atlantic Council, Washington DC, October 20, 2014: Energy relations between Russia and the West in wake of the $50 billion YUKOS case and the ongoing Ukraine crisis

The Brussels Energy Club co-hosted a special session together with the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, featuring top energy decision-maker,


Ambassador Urban Rusnák 

Secretary-General, Energy Charter Secretariat, Brussels


who discussed the topic of: 


Energy relations between Russia and the West

in wake of the $50 billion YUKOS case and the

ongoing Ukraine crisis


This event took place at the Atlantic Council, on Monday October 20, from 4.30-6pm  @ 1030 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20005


Program October 20, 2014 — 4.30pm-6pm

  • Welcome remarks by the Atlantic Council
  • Setting out the debate by David Koranyi, Deputy Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Centre, Atlantic Council, and Dr Marat Terterov, Executive Director, Brussels Energy Club 
  • Presentation by Ambassador Urban Rusnák, moderated by David Koranyi
  • Open discussion and Q/A session with Ambassador Rusnák
  • Light cocktail and networking opportunities with the speakers (cocktail may run late)


Speaker information

RusnakAmbassador Urban Rusnák is currently the Secretary General of the Energy Charter Secretariat, a post he has occupied since January 2012. The Energy Charter is a leading international energy organisation based on an inter-governmental agreement involving more than 50 countries and the EU. Member countries include the EU-28; Eurasian oil and gas producers Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan; other former-Soviet Republics, Norway, Turkey, Japan, Australia, and further states across Eurasia. The spinal cord of the Energy Charter organisation is the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) of 1994 (the only multilateral instrument dealing with investment protection, trade and transit in the energy sector), which commits its Contracting Parties to adhere to binding regulations intended to protect FDI in global energy markets, as well as transit of energy flows. Amb. Rusnák"s core task as Secretary General of the Charter is to prevent international energy security crises from happening, or to find solutions when an unforeseen crisis breaks out. Such assignments take Amb. Rusnák into the heart of international decision making at the highest level: frequent meetings with the ministers and heads of states of ECT member countries are a daily part of the job.

With deep political crisis over Ukraine driving Russia and the West towards an unprecedented standoff, these are testing times for energy policy across the Euro-Atlantic area. That said, Amb. Rusnák possesses no shortage of the necessary experience enabling him to handle the formidable challenges confronting all energy stakeholders. He served as the Ambassador of the Republic of Slovakia to Kiev from 2005-09 and was at the heart of his government"s efforts aiming to diffuse the fallout when Russia shut down the gas supply to Ukraine in January 2009. At the same time he also served as NATO-point Ambassador in Ukraine, coordinating the Alliance"s policy towards the wider-Ukrainian region. Amb. Rusnák has more than two decades of experience as a Central European diplomat, having served as Slovakia"s Ambassador-at-large for Energy Security, its Deputy-Head of Mission to Turkey, as well as handling other dossiers on the South Caucasus, Central Asia and South East Europe. He is a linguist, speaking no less than nine languages (English, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Turkish, Kazakh, Czech and Slovak). He studied oil and gas engineering for five years in Moscow during the Soviet era, prior to receiving a Ph.D. from the Ankara University Institute of Social Sciences in 1998. A gifted speaker and author, he has held several acting and honorary lectureships at a number of European universities, is widely published on energy security matters and is on the editorial board of several influential European policy journals. Amb. Rusnák is married and has two children


Event registration

For additional information about this event please contact Ben McPherson via email address: research@brusselsenergyclub.org



Background briefing paper: 

Russian energy, YUKOS and the West

No matter what side of the lingering East-West divide you may find yourself on, the names of Putin, Khodrokovsky, Sechin, the Kremlin, YUKOS, ROSNEFT, Gazprom and Co, have become part of the modern day mantra of many serious a debate about the oil and gas markets. As "savory" as they may be, however, these names do not always make front page news for the "right reasons". Indeed, the final decisions delivered by three arbitral tribunals constituted under the ECT and administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Netherlands ruling against the Russian government in favor of former-shareholders of dismembered oil company, YUKOS, to the tune of $50 billion, serves as a harsh reminder of the high stakes involved in the oil and gas business. This may all be fine, as Kremlins and oligarchs go hammer and tong at each other. However, on this occasion we need to consider the caveat that foreign investors also got into the game, and got hurt. Here, the ECT, the only multilateral investment protection instrument in the field of energy (including the oil and gas markets), stepped in. The arbitral tribunals ruled in late July that the Kremlin breached the ECT due to the manner in which it expropriated YUKOS assets and the rest, may for now, be history. 

Despite the Kremlin"s denial of any wrong doing, the rule of law has prevailed in a manner where Russia has been fined to an amount equating to 2.5% of the country"s GDP, 10% of the national budget and 11% of its foreign exchange reserves. The aggregated amount awarded in favor of YUKOS shareholders is twenty times higher than the highest previous arbitral award ever made: making it the "mother of all awards". It now appears that Russia will do all that it can — at the political and legal levels — to abstain from payment. Yet Moscow now finds itself in an increasingly hostile international environment, in wake of the current standoff with the West over Ukraine. Its energy companies are already under enormous pressure from ongoing EU Commission investigations against Gazprom in Europe, as well as international sanctions against the Russian oil sector. That said, US and EU energy corporations remain exposed in Russia in no small way, risking a boomerang effect that may well slap us back in the face lest steady sails prevail in choppy international waters. While the risks remain at alarmingly high levels for all energy stakeholders, we have hardly even begun to mention that Russia had already switched off the taps (of the gas supply) to Ukraine back in June.

Which way will Russian next turn in its current energy and political standoff with the West? How will the YUKOS cases shape Russia"s energy relations with governments and companies from the Euro-Atlantic area? Does the Energy Charter Treaty have the capacity to deflate some of the tensions? Is an energy security crisis looming in Europe given the ongoing Ukraine crisis and taking into account Moscow"s seeming efforts to heap pressure on Kiev? During Ambassador Rusnak's assessment of this subject matter, he shared his personal experience on the topic taking into account his numerous meetings with top Russian energy and political decision makers, including President Putin, ROSNEFT head Igor Sechin, Russian Energy Minister Novak, Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev, as well as Presidents and Ministers of other ex-Soviet states. He discussed how the rules and procedures of global energy governance have, in their way, humbled the Russian government in wake of the dismemberment of one of the world"s largest oil companies, and offered invaluable advice to Western energy leaders as they prepare for the rocky road that still lies ahead of us.