Fossil Fuels and Autocrats, in Russia and Beyond

In-person and online

133 S. 36th Street, Room 250 (Forum)

Zoom link sent to registered attendees



"Climate and democracy" over an oil barrel for export flying a Russian flag.

A panel discussion with MAX BERGMANN (Center for Strategic and International Studies), moderated by MITCHELL ORENSTEIN (Penn Russian and East European Studies).

THE PRODUCTION OF FOSSIL FUELS is deeply intertwined not only with the economic interests of large global corporations, but also with the political regimes of powerful autocrats. In this conversation, security expert MAX BERGMANN (Center for Strategic and International Studies) focuses on the case of Vladimir Putin and his attempts to wield fossil fuels as a strategic weapon to undermine opposition to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. As Europe actively seeks to transition to renewable energy, but at the same time remains economically dependent on fossil fuels, has Putin’s strategy succeeded or backfired? More generally, do threats to global energy and food security provide leverage for autocrats, or do they instead energize transformative policies in the world’s democracies? Moderated by MITCHELL ORENSTEIN (Penn Russian and East European Studies).


Max Bergmann is the director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program and the Stuart Center in Euro-Atlantic and Northern European Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Prior to joining CSIS he was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he focused on Europe, Russia, and U.S. security cooperation. From 2011 to 2017, he served in the U.S. Department of State in a number of different positions, including as a member of the secretary of state’s policy planning staff, where he focused on political-military affairs and nonproliferation; special assistant to the undersecretary for arms control and international security; speechwriter to then secretary of state John Kerry; and senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

This event is part of Climate & Democracy, a lecture series hosted by the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy and Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and sponsored by the Environmental Innovations Initiative.