Sunday, December 03, 2006

NATO and the Energy Weapon

At the NATO summit in Riga last week, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave a keynote speech in which he called for NATO’s basic role to be updated: it should now, he said, include protection of allied countries’ energy security.

In EDM, Vladimir Socor examines the senator’s proposals:

The NATO Charter’s Article 5 (treating an armed attack on an allied country as an attack against all) is designed to prevent coercion of a member country by a non-member country. That interpretation must apply also to a cutoff of energy supplies and trigger allied measures to supply the threatened country with energy, Lugar urged. For, ultimately, a cutoff in energy supplies is no different from the threat of military attack or a military demonstration against a member country, in that the goal is to force that country to submit to foreign coercion.

Thus, Lugar urged NATO to identify alternatives to existing pipeline routes, with the necessary financial and political support; develop strategies that include the re-supply of a country that is victim of an aggressive energy suspension; establish mechanisms to shift energy supplies and services to a member country under such attack; and ensure that infrastructure is in place to respond to such an attack. A coordinated and well-publicized Alliance response would become a deterrent that could reduce the chances of miscalculation or military conflict. It would also provide a powerful incentive for member countries to remain in the alliance and for prospective members to accelerate reforms necessary to qualify for membership.

While making clear that Russian policies are the main source of such concern, Lugar also advocated establishing regular high-level consultations between Russia and NATO on energy security to deal with Russia’s rising challenge. “Its recent actions to temporarily reduce gas supplies to the West, confiscate some foreign energy investments, and create further barriers to new investments are undermining confidence in Moscow’s reliability.” Consequently, NATO should focus on how it would supply beleaguered member countries with the energy resources needed to withstand geo-strategic blackmail.

Lugar’s initiative reflects the frustration widely felt among European Union and NATO member countries with the EU’s failure to formulate a common energy policy and supply diversification strategy. Given the two organizations’ overlapping membership, NATO could legitimately become a forum for deliberation and decisions on supply assistance to member countries targeted for aggression with the new weapons of energy. Failure by the EU or NATO to devise joint responses to these emergent threats would risk turning the alliance into a hollow shell.

Post a Comment