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NATO and Energy Challenges - Interview with MARC OZAWA



By bringing together experts from the main international organizations and private companies in the sector, Energy Strategies has deepened the evolution of markets and energy security with a specific focus on the Mediterranean basin.

“As the global energy sector is witnessing a fast-paced transition from fossils to renewables, new economic, infrastructural and security challenges are arising.”

How could we ensure more energy in the Mediterranean region?

What are the technological and political challenges of a product diversification that is increasingly moving towards renewables?

How could we improve cooperation among Mediterranean countries in the energy sector?

This is just a fragment of the questions addressed by the NATO Defense College Foundation in its two-day conference entitled Energy strategies: Europe and the Mediterranean: trends and scenarios for a connected energy market. The event was held in Rome on March 24th - 25th 2021, with the special collaboration of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program, the Policy Center for the New South, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline AG, the Union for the Mediterranean and the NATO Defense College.

By bringing together experts from the main international organizations and private companies in the sector, Energy Strategies has deepened the evolution of markets and energy security with a specific focus on the Mediterranean basin.

HIKMA had the pleasure of attending the conference and interviewing its special guests in all three sections of the event. In particular, the first part discussed the main technological issues of a more sustainable production diversification, followed by a focus on the emerging challenges and required adaptations in terms of energy security, with a final section dedicated to the infrastructures and regulations necessary for the creation of a more integrated Euro-Mediterranean market.


The second panel of the Conference discussed the emerging challenges and stability concerns regarding energy security.  Great attention was paid to the strategies to guarantee Europe the diversification of energy supplies. The contribution of Marc Ozawa, Senior Researcher at NATO Defense College, explored the issue of energy security from a military perspective with particular attention to the role of NATO tools and partnerships.

Dr. Marc Ozawa is a Senior Researcher at the Research Division at NATO Defense College. His current research examines NATO-Russian relations, hybrid conflict, and Russian and Eurasian affairs. Below, his interview organized and held by Patricia Vulpe, member of Hikma's guest team.

When did the issue of energy security first enter the NATO and how NATO's role and its commitments to energy security have changed over time?

"Energy security formally entered into NATO’s activities in 2008 as result of the Bucharest Summit. However, the very first time NATO start dealing with energy security was in the late 1950 and 1960. At that time, there was concern among some of the Member States about getting too much oil and gas from the Soviet Union so the idea was to avoid the Soviet Union to become too interconnected with NATO Member States, and to prevent it from developing its own oil and gas infrastructure and industries. We have to remember that at that time we were living in this bipolar system and the Cold War was very much a sort of zero sum game so the perception from Alliance was that any sort of economic advancement of the Soviet Union will also potentially pose a threat to the West. The approach of NATO towards the energy security has deeply changed over time. At the time there was no articulated policy but it was just a situation where some Member States raised concern about energy security. There was only a response to a very specific threat.  This is very much different from how the discussion on energy security is deliberated in Alliance in the more recent years. Since the Bucharest Summit NATO’s approach has become more refined and specific and it deals with tree major areas:

1)  The first one is situation awareness, that means a way of information share to have the members and partners always informed.

2)  The second way is in terms of protecting infrastructures. NATO manages some energy infrastructures such as the Central European pipeline system (CEPS)”, NATO’s own pipeline system founded in the late 1950’s. It was to aid in safe and quick distribution of fuel for military purposes around Europe. NATO also manages military facilities, so protection of this facilities is another way that NATO deals with energy security.

3)  The third way is the energy efficiency and I think this is an area where NATO is going to play a more active role in the years to come. This is one of the priority topics of the NATO2030 initiative

Regarding the future, what we will see in the future is NATO devising a much more specific policy among energy efficiency measures and we will also probably see NATO aligning its energy security policies into a broader context of the energy transition. More attention will be paid to the “Paris Agreement” and the Alliance will probably be much in line with the EU policies. NATO has finally made an announcement on its looking forward".

How do NATO members view the Alliance’s broader participation in energy security? Is there a consensus among the members or are they divided on this issue?

"With respect to the greening of NATO, there is no division that I’m aware of. The discussions are taking place now but my sense is that there is a widespread agreement that NATO has a role to play in the energy transition. Of course some degree of different views does exist but those will probably be worked out. Where divisions exist is the degree to which security of supply is or should be address.

NATO Member States have a very different history. Those who were Member States before the end of the Cold War and those who joined after the end the Cold War. Those who joined NATO after the end the Cold War had a very difficult history with Russia so every energy pipeline that connects NATO territory more with Russia is a divisive issue.

With respect to Nord Stream2, for instance, the official position of NATO about the pipeline is that it doesn’t concern NATO, it is an economic issue and it is under the regulatory framework of the EU. However, that being said, the security concerns that this project apposes, will spill-over into NATO discussion and different members have their own view about whether not NATO should have a position on projects like this. The same could be said for oil and gas projects in the South and in fact the first pipeline that connected Russia to NATO territory were in response to perceived instability in the Middle East Region. The oil price shock in 1973 gave some NATO Member States more reasons in their arguments that they should be able to look for alternative supply sources which is why some of them sought to make a deal with the Soviet Union at that time. So it’s interesting because of the geopolitical situation in 1960 and 1970, there was a shift to look to the East towards the Soviet Union and an alternative source for energy and now, given the geopolitical situation in the East, there is a shift to look to oil and gas resources in the South. So those are the areas of divisions that I see".

What about “Power of Siberia”? Does it represent a threat for NATO due to the close relations between Russia and China in the project?

"In my view projects like “The Power of Siberia” and other joined infrastructure projects between Russia and China, should be a concern for NATO because they represent a deepening cooperation between Russia and China. China is a very different international actor from Russia but there are a lot of unanswered questions about what China’s intentions are for the future. China is growing economic weight in NATO Member States -in Europe in particular- China is growing its influence as the second great power in the 21st century. Furthermore, China’s military ambitions in the Pacific region raise security concerns, maybe not in the short term and in NATO’S immediate neighborhood.  One of the aim NATO has identified as a priority in mid-term, is to think and act more globally and if it has to be a more global actor in the future, it can’t separate self from what’s happening in far east. Russia and China have cooperated in the before, again looking back into Cold War History. That cooperation did not work well and there was a rift between the two States that, at least ideologically, should have been compatible. There is reasons to believe that at least from the Russian perspective there the expectation that a greater cooperation with China will allow Russia to put more pressure on NATO Member States in international fora in the future so the extent to which there is greater cooperation between the two countries should raise some questions about security for NATO and NATO Member States and the reasons why projects like Power of Siberia are important indicators for not only economic cooperation but also political cooperation. There is a military cooperation called Vostok which is another indicator of deepening cooperation".

What’s the role of NATO partnerships? The “Partnership for Peace” (PfP) and the “Mediterranean Dialogue” (MD) can effectively bring more security in their respective regions?

"The role of partnerships is, for a NATO perspective, to create a more secure environment. What happens in its eastern and southern border has a direct security impact on NATO. So the role of all partnerships is, what NATO calls, “projecting stability”. The idea is that, if the partners and the regions are more stable, this will also create stability in NATO’s immediate neighborhood. The impact of these programs are difficult to be measured but, at the very least, they create an opportunity to NATO to build relations with these countries and to be more informed about what’s going on in the region and how NATO can assist in creating stability. NATO in South has to do with terrorism and migration so the extent to which the partners are better able to deal with these issues, NATO will reap advantages from the partnerships programs. Capacity building takes time so I think is too early to say whether or not the partnerships will success or not but there is broad agreement that the partnership programs are a good thing for NATO".

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