Energy security – NATO’s answer

Posted in NATO | 08-Apr-08 | Author: Dmitry Udalov

Energy security was included to the summit’s agenda as a sign of NATO’s transformation and eagerness to take part in the resolution of non-military security issues. Yet, there are certain concerns about the ability of NATO to provide a genuine value-added contribution to the global energy security.

On a military level, the situation is clear. NATO may guarantee security of critical energy infrastructure; safeguard major sea routes and chokepoints. The explicit example is a sea patrolling operation “Active Endeavour” in the Mediterranean started in October 2001. It managed to detect, deter and counter terrorist activities by examining the route of approximately 75,000 ships and providing NATO military escorts for 480. There is no doubt that a side effect of such operations by the Alliance is also to improve energy security not only on regional but on the global level. It even reduces oil price since energy experts argue that military factors accounted roughly 20% of the NYMEX oil price in 2007. That’s why operation “Active Endeavour” has attracted other non-NATO nations. Russia and Ukraine joined NATO’s efforts in preparation and implementation of this operation.

NATO is to play greater role in providing for the security of energy infrastructure. And there is a lot of room for further actions: For instance, regarding the problem of nuclear energy infrastructure. There are about 100 nuclear reactors in Europe and 120 in North America. The terrorist attack on any of those facilities would cause inevitable damage to the population of our countries. Thus, NATO should address this problem specifically. Besides, it might become a very important area of possible cooperation with NATO partner countries – Russia and Ukraine, or Kazakhstan.

But on a broader political level of energy security discussions, the Allied nations are likely to be less unanimous and consistent. Besides, contrary to military issues of energy security, political debate on this issue in NATO framework hardly produces any value added. That’s why Bucharest was supposed to provide a better understanding of NATO’s place in global energy security.

So far, the most ambitious initiative came from Senator Richard Lugar who suggested to consider “disruptions of energy” as a reason to invoke NATO’s strongest respond - Article V. But, firstly, the clarification of the judicial meaning of the term “disruption” is largely unclear. Shall NATO start bombing Algeria just in any case of pressure falls in the gas pipelines from Algeria? Secondly, energy security is a far broader issue than just the stability of supply. Thus, Lugar’s initiative has not been formalized so far and Bucharest summit did not bring a breakthrough in this dimension.

But on the road to the Bucharest summit, a new vision for NATO’s role stated to approach. Energy security should be viewed in three levels depending on the scope of matters which are under discussion. The biggest level is the commercial one – businesses resolve most of energy issues themselves. When some issues cannot be resolved among businesses, some other structures are in place like – the International Energy Agency, OPEC, International Gas Union etc. But when the issue is so serious that it cannot be resolved by those agencies, a third level of institution could handle such cases. And NATO is one the few world organizations along with the UN, OSCE and others to be responsible for this type of crisis management

Following this paradigm, NATO nations agreed in Bucharest to boost Alliance’s role in energy security. The Bucharest declaration says that “NATO will engage in the following fields: information and intelligence fusion and sharing; projecting stability; advancing international and regional cooperation; supporting consequence management; and supporting the protection of critical energy infrastructure.”

Yet the most important of all accomplishments of Bucharest is the development of the unified NATO’s vision of energy threats and responses.