Edward Lucas
Marcin Zaborowski
07 July 2016

NATO can strengthen CEE energy security

Within the context of NATO’s 2016 Warsaw Summit, Michał Kurtyka, undersecretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of Energy, offered his assessment of the new energy security challenges facing Central and Eastern Europe (CEE
Edward Lucas, senior vice president of CEPA, also took part in the discussion, which was organized by CEPA’s Warsaw office.

As NATO’s Warsaw summit got under way, one outstanding question for policymakers was how frontline allies in Europe should best respond to the changing strategic circumstances in Ukraine and how this is driving the need for upstream energy diversification and robust infrastructure. While the conflict’s hard-power challenges took center stage at the NATO summit, soft-power pressures such as energy security are equally important.

Kurtyka and Lucas agreed on three critical points regarding CEE energy security:

1. Safety of Navigation
The Baltic Sea’s role is increasing, thanks to Poland’s potential to become a leading regional transit country for oil and gas supplies from new sources. It is a corridor for all supplies and contains submarine transmission lines for electricity. For this reason, Poland and other NATO members hoping to diversify their energy sources insist on strengthening security in the Baltic Sea through increased NATO military activity. This will ensure the free movement of goods crucial to the development of energy resources.

2. Critical Infrastructure Security

Because of increasing hybrid threats to Baltic infrastructure in Poland, the Baltic states and Scandinavia, countries should work together to eliminate any risk of damage to ships transporting raw materials and gas, or to pipelines and interconnectors. Such damage could threaten not only supplies but also marine life. The impact of new infrastructure should also be analyzed, and NATO should work on increasing security for critical infrastructure. 

3. Cyber Security

Cybersecurity is far more important than we previously realized. The proliferation of electric vehicles and digitalization of the energy sector, makes cyber security a key factor in the region’s energy security policy. Hackers have already targeted critical energy infrastructure, with attacks affecting Estonia (2007, DdoS), Georgia (2009, government information portals) and Ukraine (2015, disruption of electricity distribution companies). NATO allies are also targets for hackers seeking to steal data crucial for national economic security. NATO should develop templates on how to react in case of cyber attacks against all member countries.

Marcin Zaborowski, CEPA’s executive vice president, moderated the discussion.