The theory of state fragmentation posits that economic actors have the capacity to bargain with political leadership and that the outcome of this interaction for foreign policy remains uncertain. While the state and economic players can help each other to achieve their goals, it is by no means a unidirectional relationship. Economic players can lead, rather than follow, the state’s action, mobilise the state to protect their own parochial interests, and complicate the implementation of political leadership’s grand designs.
Borrowing from this approach, the proposed paper aims to explore in what ways and to what extent different types of patron-client relations between the Kremlin and Russian state-owned and private companies influence the effectiveness of employing such actors in Russia's foreign policy. For this purpose, I compare Gazprom, Rosneft and Novatek. All three companies have contributed to implementing Russia's foreign policy agenda but each has been linked to the Kremlin in a different way. Gazprom is steered almost directly by Vladimir Putin and his CEO is a loyalist without own political weight. Rosneft is led by Igor Sechin who seems to enjoy substantial room for maneouvre in meeting Putin's expectations. Novatek is a private company which nonetheless enjoys a privileged access to the Kremlin. The paper will address the question of how much these differences matter when it comes to acting abroad.