European energy security in the spotlight at NATO PA meeting

Warsaw, 26 May 2018 – Moscow continues to wield its immense energy resources as a political weapon against the West, despite successful recent efforts to reduce European dependence on Russian oil and gas imports, parliamentarians from NATO nations heard Saturday.

“We should not consider Russia a normal energy market actor […] we need to understand the links between Russia’s energy business and its aggressive geopolitical posture and the threat that this poses to all of us,” said Lithuanian lawmaker Ausrine Armonaite, who presented a draft report on energy security to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Since Russia delivered a “wake up call” with supply disruptions in 2006 and 2009, European countries – particularly in central and eastern Europe – have managed to reduce reliance on Russian energy imports. 

Measures have included the development of Liquefied Natural Gas facilities; switching to new suppliers, such as the United States; increased use of renewable energy alternatives; and new market rules and infrastructure that have facilitated oil and gas transfers within Europe. 

“As long as Russia’s clients have other options, its leverage will be limited,” said Armonaite’s draft report.

Nevertheless, Russia’s abundant ressources mean it will remain an important energy supplier, so Western Allies need to remain attentive to Moscow’s attempts to use that economic power to expand its international influence, the draft report warned. 

In that context, several speakers criticised the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline project designed to take Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany and beyond.

“There are strong security reasons for blocking Nord Stream 2,” Dr Anders Aslund, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council, told the NATO PA’s Economics and Security Committee.

He said the project risked making Germany more dependent on Russian gas while granting Moscow more clout over Ukraine and other countries in eastern Europe bypassed by the new pipeline. “The Germans must surely see the dangers of such a geopolitical situation,” said Dutch legislator Menno Knip.

In her draft report, Armonaite also suggested that Nord Stream 2 not be built. 

She recommended that European nations work to negotiate gas contracts collectively with Russia; urged the strict application of European Union competition rules on Russian energy giant Gazprom; called for greater development of infrastructure facilitating alternative supplies; and advised greater transparency and openness in energy markets to prevent corruption in the sector.

“The less transparency and competition in energy markets, the more opportunities there will be for corruption,” Armonaite said. “This is why transparency and open competition are essential to building a more secure energy system in Europe.”