NATO roundtable explores energy security issues

  • Last updated: 20 Dec. 2012 09:47

Energy is often considered the lifeblood of modern societies. The reliable and affordable flow of energy resources is closely interconnected with a country’s prosperity and complex economic system. Cyber attacks on critical energy infrastructure, piracy, and terrorist attacks on pipelines and refineries show how energy developments are increasingly driving international relations, including international security.

On 5 November 2012, NATO hosted a roundtable discussion on challenges to energy security, the roles and responsibilities of international actors, and NATO’s contribution to the field. Participants included energy experts from the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the International Energy Agency (IEA), think tanks and academia. They debated the increasing energy needs of the emerging economies in Asia, the imbalances between producer and consumer countries, and the possible political implications of these developments on international relations.

During the roundtable, Ambassador Gabór Iklodý, Assistant Secretary General of NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division (ESCD), highlighted the importance of NATO’s involvement in energy security: “As an Alliance that seeks to safeguard the security of almost 900 million citizens, NATO cannot stand idly by. Where it can do more, it should do more.”

Security is more than merely deterring military threats. At the conclusion of the roundtable, Dr Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General of the Emerging Security Challenges Division, emphasized that NATO should not be blacked out of the complex issues relating to energy security. The Alliance needs to monitor these developments in order to anticipate possible security challenges for the Allies.

Defining NATO’s role

In further refining its role in energy security, NATO seeks to avoid the militarisation of market-driven issues and interfering with national economic policies,” explained Michael Rühle, Head of NATO’s Energy Security Section. “Rather than duplicating the roles and responsibilities of other stakeholders, NATO seeks to establish closer ties with them.

The Alliance offers well-established instruments of political consultations, intelligence sharing, civil emergency planning, sharing of best practices in critical infrastructure protection, and maritime surveillance and operations.

NATO has an established, wide partnership framework that reaches out to many energy producing and consuming countries outside of the Alliance, which helps to facilitate dialogue on mutual security interests. In addition to this, NATO’s transatlantic membership, which includes non-EU Allies that are important international energy stakeholders, means the Alliance is well placed to provide added value in terms of energy security.

By organising training courses on energy security for military officers and diplomats, NATO has also played an important role in raising awareness on the importance of energy and energy security. More recently, NATO has stepped up its efforts to improve the energy efficiency of armed forces.

The rapid evolution of the international environment forces institutions not only to rely on the expertise provided by think tanks, but also to keep in touch with one another in order to avoid duplications, improve coordination and identify potential synergies.