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v8n2_04 - The North Atlantic Treaty Organizations Future...

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Future Role in Energy Security by Thierry Legendre E nergy security is a broad and evolving concept. In the seventies, it was primarily linked to enhancing conservation and developing political strategies to secure guaranteed Western energy supplies in the Middle East. Today the term has widened to include risks such as underinvestment in infrastructure, which can lead to massive power outages, and poorly designed markets, as well as disruption to energy supplies due to natural disasters, accidents, and international terrorism. Unlike thirty years ago, there is a much greater number of suppliers and consumers in play on all five continents, whose interests must be balanced. The issue has become truly globalized. With the North Atlantic Treaty Oraganization’s (NATO) November 2006 summit in Riga behind us, there is no question as to whether or not energy security is a relevant topic for NATO. Indeed, during the Riga summit, the NATO heads of state all agreed that energy security was an issue of critical importance that NATO should address. Energy security is not entirely new to NATO and the organization’s agenda, however. In a more or less direct manner, the Alliance has regularly dealt with the issue. NATO’s Strategic Concept from 1999, 1 which is the overall strategic document for NATO’s activities, for example, speaks of the “…disruption of the flow of vital resources.” 2 Furthermore, there are references to energy supplies in a number of internal NATO documents, such as the Comprehensive Political Guidance, as well. Member states have routinely exchanged intelligence and information on energy security, especially in the Economic Committee and within the International Military Staff. Military fuel supplies have been an integrated component in the Alliance’s defense planning, and a number of related activities have been organized within NATO’s Partnership framework, including with Russia (i.e. on surveillance and protection of energy infrastructures). Finally, activities related to energy security have also been taking place within fields like industrial planning, work on defense against terrorism, and civil emergency planning. It should be highlighted, however, that these activities have neither been a part of a consistent policy, nor have they constituted a coherent NATO approach to the issue of energy security. Thierry Legendre is a Policy Adviser at the Private Office of the Secretary General at NATO’s Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. This article reflects Legendre’s personal views and does not constitute an official NATO position. 29
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