Center for Strategic Decision Research

Paris '07 Workshop

Energy as a Security Imperative

Gen James Jones, former SACEUR  

General James L. Jones
former Supreme Allied Commander Europe

Former SACEUR General James L. Jones addresses the workshop on energy security.

"Energy and the energy infrastructure will be true challenges as the global appetite for energy dramatically increases and our infrastructures do not keep pace, which is predicted and which will severely strain resources in the future."


            In the aftermath of my active duty career, I have had the opportunity to sit back and reflect a bit on a number of things. Before I get into my presentation, I would like to say that one of my conclusions is that this 21st century will be a century in which the very concept of security will have a much more expanded notion, perhaps greater than we can imagine. The evolution of the world from the bipolar 20th century to the very brief unipolar period to, more recently, what obviously will be a long-term multipolar world is a fact of life we have to deal with and whose implications we have to analyze very carefully. I believe it is essential to understand the characteristics of this multipolar world and their implications for what constitutes security, both national and international.


            Looking at my own nation and at what I know of other nations, it seems to me that multipolarity is having a profound impact on the very institutions, both national and international, that are charged with maintaining and preserving our concept of what we think of as security—that impact might make some of us wish for the good old days of the 20th century, when life seemed to be a little simpler, a little more ordered, a little bit more predictable, and a little clearer. It was certainly easier to categorize then, especially when you look at the diversity and the difficulties and the greater number of issues that go into our concept of a secure globe or a secure nation today. 

            In addition to being broader, the new characteristics are also more asymmetric, and they include, in my view, a broader range of issues: 

          - Cyber security is certainly up there on the list. 

          - I would maintain that energy is there as well: we touched on that briefly at Riga and the last summit and went to great lengths at NATO to discuss it and hold some related events; the secretary general was very committed to the idea that energy is a security issue. 

          - The security of the energy infrastructures that support what we seek to achieve in energy security is obviously a very important topic. 

          - So is the increasing impact of drug trafficking on the economic underpinnings of extremist movements in the world, with Afghanistan a prime example. 

          - Illegal immigration of people, with its enormous potential for impacting demographics all over the globe.

          - The proliferation of non-nation state actors and the request for weapons of mass destruction.

          - The stability of world commerce, climate change and its impact on security issues such as world hunger, education and poverty—all aspects of potential terrorist and extremist breeding grounds.

All of these things together—and the list could probably go on—are factors that have to come into play in any discussion addressing security. 

            Broadly speaking, security is no longer simply the property of a nation, its Ministry of Defense and Foreign Affairs, and perhaps its national security advisor. It includes the whole gamut of international and national organizations that must work more cohesively together and must work at a much more rapid and agile pace than perhaps ever before in order to deal with the multiplicity of the challenges and the speed with which they arrive. Today the very viability of our national and international structures is being tested, and it is not just the property of one or two or three agencies or institutions.


            Clearly in Afghanistan the potential solution is not simply a military one. The narcotics problem, police reform, and judicial reform must also be addressed, just three examples of the diverse issues that go into solving an international security problem. In the Sudan, we see international institutions held back by their own rules and regulations from doing anything positive to stop what some have referred to as genocide and that are clearly human problems of enormous proportions. Similarly in Iraq the solution set argues for a broader-based solution set and strategic consequences, not just for the region or for the United States or any one country but for all regions, especially concerning matters pertaining to energy and energy infrastructures.

            Generally speaking, there seems to be a rise in the number of non-governmental organizations both at the national and international level that organize themselves to do what some 20th-century governmental institutions either won’t or cannot do. On matters pertaining to energy, this is particularly important. Therefore, it is imperative that we clearly understand the security environment we face. 

            I draw a lot of lessons from the business community, which has shown itself to be much more flexible and certainly much more rapid and agile in the diagnostic work that goes into assessing the environment for future markets, adapting the business to the environment, making the changes in order to be competitive, and then simply doing it. National and international institutions need to do more of that type of thing as they seek to understand the marketplace composed of the very sectors that are part of the new security environment we collectively face. Just as businesses whose existence and survival depend on clear analysis, rapid action, and a demonstrated ability to change, those of our institutions that are concerned with security—and I feel particularly strongly about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—need some agility and speed.

            To my mind, nowhere is this more evident than in the area that we call energy security, where the outcome will be felt at the international, national, and even the family level. Energy is a global, national, and local issue. It is fundamentally critical to the economic stability of our markets and it will have a deep impact on security but also on our environment. Energy and the energy infrastructure will be true challenges as the global appetite for energy dramatically increases and our infrastructures do not keep pace, which is predicted and which will severely strain resources in the future. The next 20 years will see a dramatic rise in demand for electricity, natural gas, and transportation fuels in a world that we can only begin to understand, and they will also see a corresponding impact on the environment and the global climate. I am convinced you cannot have a serious discussion on energy-related issues without having an environmentalist at the table.

            The links between energy, security, and the security of our critical infrastructures deserve a little bit more attention. The rise in the demand for energy should cause us to look critically at both the security and capability of our critical infrastructures to deal with what I characterize as a coming energy tsunami in terms of demand. Despite the efforts of many people, Riga only peripherally touched on the energy security challenge but what it did was encouraging. I hope that the Alliance will continue to broaden the envelope regarding the critical energy security issues.

            A good example of the way key international organizations such as the U.N., the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are not changing rapidly enough to deal with the rapidly changing strategic environment can be seen in the way they face security challenges—reactively rather than proactively. Being proactive is required in my view and failure to recognize the imperative to do so will cause some institutions to fundamentally rethink their raison d’etre in order to move into new exciting fields; this means that we will wait, possibly until it is too late. The cost of addressing security challenges, of course, will increase exponentially the longer we wait.


            In places such as Sudan, where the collective will of many nations is being tested, energy is a huge part of the problem. It is also fair to say that one element of the world’s energy portfolio, oil, is being used as both an economic and a political weapon. This situation is likely to stay as it is for a considerable period of time, and the implication of the trend for Middle East scenarios is also significant for the world. The trend towards nationalization of oil assets is an international security issue—77% of the world’s oil reserves are now nationally owned. In my view, the question is, can international organizations stand idly by as the Gulf region slides towards chaos? The energy impacts of the global supply of oil on that region alone could be very significant in the future. Isn’t it time to take proactive action to mitigate the effects of a potential crisis in that region?

            The way ahead is both clear and relatively compelling. When I was offered the opportunity to form the Institute for 21st Century Energy in association with the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, I eagerly accepted. I believe it to be a national security issue as well as an international and family security issue. We need to consider all three aspects as we undertake our mission and we need a comprehensive, global energy strategy that is well understood, rational, workable, and environmentally sensitive. It also must be affordable, diverse, secure, and fundamental to economic growth and to international and national security. 


            Over the next year, this institute will develop a document that will articulate a pragmatic strategy for a national view as well as address U.S. responsibility in the international arena. The United States must be part of the global solution and not part of the global energy problem.  We will be asking those who sit at our table, both real and virtual, representing the demand sector, the supply sector, and the environmental sector, to put self-interest aside in favor of the common good. We will be educating at the grass-roots level to show our publics that the issue is much more complex than the price at the pump, although that seems to stimulate the most activity in the near term. We will also battle the myths surrounding energy—the idea of energy independence in a global economy seems somewhat absurd. In addition, we will study the impact of global warming on future energy solutions and the successes others have had creating a vision that has materially assisted their national drive. In particular we should tip our hats to France for its nuclear power vision, which has put France in a good position, at least in terms of one aspect of energy. In the United States, the market for alternative sources of energy was $30 billion in 2006. U.S. venture capitalists have invested seven times more in green technology than their European counterparts, which is one of the brighter pieces of news that I have been able to uncover thus far. 


            I conclude that the only workable solutions are global—individual nations cannot solve the problems by themselves, although sovereign interests are certainly at stake. None of our existing institutions, either national or international, seem to be able to effectively address the diversity of the expanded security challenges, and change is definitely and urgently required. We will need to deal with these issues sooner or later, and, in my view, it makes good sense to start now, before it is too late. 

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