Two years ago at the NATO summit in Riga I argued that a natural gas shutdown experienced by a European country in the middle of winter could cause death and economic loss on the scale of a military attack. Such circumstances are made more dangerous by the prospects that nations might become desperate, increasing the chances of armed conflict and terrorism. [...] Neither NATO nor the EU has developed an adequate strategy to address Europe's energy vulnerability.
Bilateral deals with Germany to construct the Nord Stream pipeline and with Italy's ENI to construct the South Stream pipeline will reduce Russia's dependence on current transit countries while also blunting the economic position of non-Russian alternative pipelines like Nabucco. [...] As a result, Eastern European countries have been seeking their own deals with Russia. Such deals are being made from positions of weakness. European governments are being pressured to surrender majority shares of national refineries and energy transportation systems. [...]
Russia's strategy is not limited to Eastern Europe. North Africa is a key source of natural gas for Europe, and Gazprom is seeking agreements with Libya and Algeria. [...] Russia has even advocated a global natural gas cartel and proposed a trans-Saharan pipeline linking West Africa to export terminals in North Africa in an effort to gain leverage over African gas supplies to Europe.
Gazprom's monopoly-seeking behavior should not come as a surprise. We have seen in our own history that without regulation, many businesses will seek to gain monopoly power. The difficulty in restraining this tendency is multiplied when the business in question is backed by the Russian government. [...] It is difficult to distinguish where the Russian Government ends and where Gazprom begins. Clearly Gazprom has sacrificed profits and needed domestic infrastructure investments to achieve Russian foreign policy goals. [...]
The Kremlin and Gazprom have shut off energy supplies to six different countries during the last several years. These energy cutoffs were efforts at Russian intimidation. Unfortunately, neither NATO nor the EU provided assistance to its members. [...]
In this context, it is no surprise that NATO Membership Action Plans for Georgia and Ukraine were complicated by energy security at the Bucharest Summit. [...]The effect of Nord Stream and South Stream will be to increase overall European dependence on Gazprom, make certain countries like Ukraine more vulnerable to supply disruption, and make it easier to divide Europe on critical foreign policy issues. [...]
Russia will be Europe's preeminent energy supplier for decades, but this does not have to be a confrontational relationship. Nor do European countries have to be in a weakened bargaining position because of their import dependence. Right now, NATO and the EU have tremendous leverage in developing a more constructive relationship with Russia on energy. [...]
It is time for the trans-Atlantic community to establish a credible energy security strategy that diversifies energy sources for all Europe, establishes a collective framework to work with Russia, and refuses to tolerate the use of energy as an instrument of coercion. Russia, Europe, and the United States should be interdependent partners in energy security. Russia will benefit from US and European investment, expertise, technology, and trade revenue, and Europe - like the US - will benefit from reliable supplies and investment opportunities. [...]
The dilemma now is that European countries are trying to solve their energy security concerns with Russia on a bilateral basis. [...] I believe NATO should play a leading role in formulating and advancing a trans-Atlantic energy security strategy because energy and security are synonymous. As the world's preeminent security alliance, it is NATO's duty to respond to crises threatening member states as well as act to prevent such crises. [...]
Diversifying gas supplied to Europe can be achieved by promoting Caspian sources of energy with independent transportation routes; supporting pro-Western governments in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey that host significant energy transportation routes; and developing strong multilateral support and funding for the Nabucco pipeline. [...]
I [therefore] strongly urge the Administration to appoint a Special Energy Envoy to the Caspian region. It is also time for the United States to support Turkey's EU ambitions. Turkish membership is important to regional security, outreach to the Muslim world, and energy diversification. [...]
Although diversifying energy transit routes from Central Asia to Europe should be a first priority, this does not diminish the importance of rapid progress in building energy trade with North African countries, increasing use of biofuels, improving efficiency in power and transportation, deploying clean coal and carbon sequestration technologies, and increasing usage of nuclear power. [...]
The trans-Atlantic community must come to grips with the fact that our future is threatened by the continued abdication of leadership on energy. Our energy-derived vulnerabilities will continue until we have the possibility of collective action and are implementing supply diversification.
Richard G. Lugar is United States Senator for Indiana. This a shortened version of his speech to the US-Ukraine Energy Dialogue Series, April 15, 2008. The full text is available on Senator Lugar's homepage.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Marek Swierczynski: Gazprom Hardens Its Grip on Europe
- Hans Ulrich Klose: The West Needs Russia as a Partner
- Frank Walter Steinmeyer: Yes, We Can! Our New Transatlantic Agenda in a Changing World