NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

16 Jan. 2008

Energy Security, a new NATO issue?

Video interview with Thierry Legendre, Policy Advisor in the office of the NATO Secretary General

INTERVIEWER: We are here today with Thierry Legendre, policy advisor in the Office of the NATO Secretary General. Welcome. Thank you for taking the time to come and talk to us about energy security.

Last year at the NATO Summit in Riga the heads of state and the governments of the Alliance decided that energy security was an issue that the Alliance should deal with. Would you say that this is a new issue for the Alliance?

THIERRY LEGENDRE (Policy Advisor, Office of the NATO Secretary General): Well thank you first of all for inviting me here today to address this very important issue.

To your question, no it is not a new issue for the Alliance. As a matter of fact for years and years, among others, the economic committee has had regular briefings by experts from the outside. Within the industrial planning, energy security has also been a topic. Planning in response to terrorism is also an area where energy security is an integral part and within defence planning the supplies of petroleum to the forces has also been an integral part. And finally, within civil emergency planning, this is also a topic that has been regularly integrated in that activity.

So all in all, a lot of activities have been taking place within this field, but we have never seen it as part of a consistent policy or part of a comprehensive approach to this issue. So Riga is really the first time that we see such a clear tasking to the Alliance, to the council in permanent session, to have a look at this issue.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, but why are we witnessing this explicit interest right now?

LEGENDRE: Well I think that first of all it is linked to the tightness in the energy market in general. I mean you have just seen here during last weekend that the barrel price went up to the magic, or so-called magic $100 dollars a barrel and that of course is a concern not only for the consumer, but for the world economy in general. A tightness in the market is partly due to the increased demand on the oil markets, including from the so-called new economies like China and India, and this tightness in the market also creates a certain nervousity, amongst other things, against technical disruptions or natural catastrophes or disasters or even terrorism that, because of the tightness can actually have a direct impact and a very quick impact on the prices that have been seen in the last couple of years.

So finally, in general the market related issues you could say and as a general trend for the Allies and most Allie, as much European Allies as North American are members of NATO. As a general trend we can identify a higher dependency in the future on imported energy as we do also produce less in our part of the world.

INTERVIEWER: Okay that is very interesting, but as you know the world had experienced tightness of oil markets before. For instance it was in 1973 and 1979 and at that time the disruption of oil did not provoke any reaction from NATO. How do you explain this?

LEGENDRE: Well it is a very good point you are making there Malene. Indeed we have had these two oil crises and indeed the Alliance did not really come up with a response to this. I think we have to take more of a NATO-centric approach maybe to try to understand why we are moving in that direction. I think one of the first explanations is probably that the Alliance has transformed since the Cold War. We have gone from 16 to 26 members and thereby we have also widened the range of our security concerns. We are talking about the widening of the security agenda of the Alliance and as part of this transformation. I believe that the Alliance is also perceived as more of a comprehensive security provider, thereby also meaning delivering some kind of security within this field as we are having concerns within this area. So that at least is two of the explanations that I can see from the outset.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, but could you also tell me which areas do you see NATO's involvement in energy securing adding some value?

LEGENDRE: Well I believe that first of all as it is tasked in Riga that we need to monitor and assess the immediate threats to ensure vital resources. So I could imagine that we will have more consultations where we could monitor and assess the situation, eventually exchange intelligence and fusion intelligence within the area. And another very important area is actually the co-operation with partners. As you know, we have partners almost all over the world with a few exceptions in Africa and South America. We have the Partnership for Peace (PFP) partnerships with nations in Central and Eastern Europe; we have the Istanbul Cooperation Initative (ICI) co-operation with countries in the Middle East. We have the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) countries and we even have partners as far as Australia, New Zealand, Korea, although less formal partners, but still close partners, and some of them contributing to our mission.

So I think that covering partners from producers, through consumers, customers and transit countries also, I think obviously that this is an area where we might add value as a first point.

A second area where I could imagine we could make a difference is in the more military field. For instance, within the civil emergency planning area or the consequence management area. For instance, we have previously delivered security assistance packages to members of the Alliance - the Olympics in Athens, the World Cup in Football in Germany - we also delivered security assistance packages. So that is just one example of how we could assist within that area.

The third area I would say that we will have to look into a little bit - is within the infrastructure area that is also preconized in the Riga Declaration. Here the area of maritime security is quite important. So I would say that monitoring role for the Alliance will also be an area where I see a possibility or a scope for adding value and making a difference. For instance, we are having a maritime surveillance operation in the Mediterranean Sea, the Operation Active Endeavour that is about terrorism, but still I was mentioning the terrorist threat also against infrastructure. So that would also be an area where I think we could add value.

Following that I would say that a further area, but that will have to be looked at cautiously obviously, is something like interdiction operations, maritime interdiction operations. But the Alliance has never been involved in such operation as such, although some of the Allies have experiences for instance from the Iran-Iraq War, the so-called tanker war.

INTERVIEWER: Excellent. And finally, how do you see the further developments?

LEGENDRE: Well the tasking from the heads of states and government from Riga in 2006 clearly indicates two things mainly; that we should add value (that we touched upon it before) and also that we should add value within the area of critical infrastructure. Adding value means that we should avoid duplication with other organizations or other actors and here I am in particular thinking about the European Union. So the Alliance should not begin to interfere in market issues.

But it also means when we are talking about adding value that we should look at the military assets that we are having; which capabilities do we have and where could we use them in a rewarding way and that of course will depend also on how we assess the general energy situation. I think now that we approach the summit in Bucharest in only a couple of months in April, I think that work will intensify; as a matter of fact, as we are speaking, work is intensifying and the senior political committee, which is the lead committee within this area, is discussing this and the international staff here in the NATO headquarters is working intensively together with the 26 member nations and covering partly some of the areas I have mentioned meaning exchange and fusion of intelligence, supporting consequence management, supporting protection of critical infrastructure and certainly also promote regional and international co-operation within this area.

So quite some work is being done and we will have to await the summit in Bucharest to evaluate the results.

INTERVIEWER: Well excellent. Thank you very much. Maybe you could come back and tell us more about the Bucharest Summit after.

LEGENDRE: That would be my pleasure. Thank you.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you.

Last updated: 12-Apr-2010 11:41