Energy 26 March, 2018 11:00 am   

Energy and security in the Baltic bring Poland and Norway together (INTERVIEW)

The report of the Polish Institute of International Affairs and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs “Energy and Defense in the Nordic-Baltic Region” describes how energy security is combined with military security. – The energy interests of Poland and Norway are complementary: the stability and security of the region is important for Poland as a gas and oil importer, and Norway – as an exporter. Therefore, it is in our interest to strengthen the security of the region – says one of the authors of the report, analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, Bartosz Bieliszczuk, in an interview with What connects Poland and Norway in the area of ​​security?

Bartosz Bieliszczuk: In terms of security, we are talking about two NATO members, including the “flank” members of the Alliance’s eastern and northern sides. At the Polish border there is, among others, the Kaliningrad Oblast heavily militarized by Russia, while on the Norwegian-Russian border the Kola Peninsula with the strategic base of the Russian Navy, where submarines transferring nuclear weapons stationed. Despite the geographical distance, Poland and Norway in case of a possible conflict with Russia combine not only allied commitments within NATO, but also the mechanism of the so-called horizontal escalation. What is the mechanism used for? In the case of Russia-NATO conflict in the Baltic Sea, the Kremlin assumes (indicated by Russian maneuvers in the region) the possibility of escalating the conflict also to the Barents Sea and / or the Norwegian Sea (and vice versa)…

… and in the energy area?

As far as energy is concerned, we are talking here about the relations between the state-exporter of gas and oil and the importing country, this area of ​​cooperation seems clear. Deliveries of Norwegian natural gas will allow Poland to diversify supplies, and Norway is a reliable, reliable partner who does not use energy to achieve political goals. It is worth remembering that in addition to the construction of the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline, which will allow Poland to import gas from Norway, Norwegians also export liquefied gas (LNG), which goes, among others, to Poland or Lithuania (incidentally, the Lithuanians lease their floating LNG terminal in Klaipeda from the Norwegian company Höegh LNG).

Polish companies, Lotos and PGNiG have been present on the Norwegian continental shelf for years. Importantly, these are energy companies that are interested in oil and gas extraction and long-term presence on the shelf, as opposed to, for example, capital investors whose priority is a quick return on investment (ie, obtaining a license and selling it at the right moment).

It is also worth noting the involvement of Norwegian Statoil in renewable energy, including the last entry into wind farms on the Polish Baltic. There are many areas of economic cooperation, which also affects the need to ensure security in the region.

So how can one protect the energy interests of both countries in the Baltic Sea?

The energy interests of Poland and Norway are complementary: stability and security of the region is important for Poland as a gas and oil importer, and Norway – as an exporter. It is in our interest, to strengthen the security of the region, for example by deterring potential aggressors, to put it simply – Russia. The region has, or will be, the key energy infrastructure of NATO countries: the Polish and Lithuanian LNG terminal, Baltic Pipe, Balticconnector etc. Russian aggression towards Ukraine, military maneuvers where the enemy is NATO or provocative flights of fighters are a challenge for the Alliance. Russia must know that it is not worth it to attack NATO countries, because it will meet a definite answer.

If so, how can the membership of Poland, Norway, Denmark and the Baltic countries be used in NATO?

As for “hard” military security in the Baltic region, the issue is quite clear: we are NATO members, we co-create the Alliance’s eastern flank, we patrol the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as part of Baltic Air Policing, and in the case of an attack on one of the Alliance members, we must give it support. It is worth noting that while the perception of Russia’s threat is basically the same for Poland, Denmark or Lithuania, Norway has been much more restrained in defining Russia as a potential security threat over the years.

Does Russia’s aggressive policy in the Baltic help integration and cooperation between Poland, Denmark and the Baltic states in the field of security, but do not the fears and fear of Russia lead to consolidation of security?

More than that – they incline not only the countries mentioned but also Norway. For some time, mainly due to the Russian invasion on Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia’s perception of Norway is evolving. Norwegian decision-makers start to see the importance of energy in international relations. There is of course no question of politicizing these issues through Oslo, but rather the perception of the position of states such as Poland, which for years consistently claim that energy dependence on Russia has consequences for security and foreign policy. Our partners also see the danger associated with possible cyber attacks on energy infrastructure.

How can the Baltic connect the interests of Poland and Ukraine in the field of security and energy?

The report, prepared by the PISM analysts and the Norwegian NUPI, concerned the Baltic-Nordic region, but this also has implications for the security of Ukraine. It will not be abusive to say that the future of Ukrainian energy is also taking place in the Baltic – I mean, of course, the construction of Nord Stream 2, which deprives Ukraine of most of the transit of Russian gas and will help bypass the transit through this country.

This is not only economic but also military – the disappearance of this interdependence (currently Russia must send large amounts of gas to Europe through Ukraine) increases the risk of Russia’s further military aggression to Ukraine. It is also worth adding that Ukraine has been the victim of Russia’s use of energy for foreign policy implementation, which is also reported in the report: gas contracts linked to a contract for stationing troops or (from recent examples) gas supplies to Donbas, contrary to Ukraine.

Interview conducted by Bartłomiej Sawicki