In a meeting on 14 November 2011, the Government of Lithuania agreed to the concept of establishing a NATO Center of Excellence for Energy Security and to its principal action plan. It is projected to accomplish key accreditation tasks by the NATO Summit to be held in May 2012 in Chicago. In other words, a Lithuania-based international military organization making a practical contribution to enhancing NATO‘s capabilities in the area of energy security may start active operation as early as the beginning of 2013.
‘Centers of Excellence’ in the Alliance: From idea to reality
A decision to streamline NATO's command structure, in part through the creation of NATO'S Allied Command Transformation (ACT), was taken as far back as the 2002 Prague Summit. The command seeks to ensure that the military alliance faces its future challenges by enhancing the interoperability of capacities among the member countries, training opportunities and by organizing exercises for testing new doctrines, concepts and operational strategies. The NATO Defense College based in Rome and the NATO School in Germany did not suffice to achieve these goals – either new entities of education, training and analysis were required or the relations between the Alliance and the existing entities were to be strengthened. A decision was made not to establish new schools or think-tanks but to try strengthening the existing ones in NATO member countries in order to coordinate the activities of NATO structures and to meet high quality standards in the areas of strengthening scientific, training and specific expertise and to benefit from national resources of this type.
In pursuit of this vision, the NATO Military Committee approved the concept of the Alliance’s Centers of Excellence at the end of 2003. In the short run, i.e. in 2005 and 2006, the first centers were accredited – the Joint Air Power Competence Center based in Germany and the Center of Excellence Defense Against Terrorism in Turkey respectively. Since then, ACT has already accredited sixteen COEs operating in thirteen NATO member countries. Poland, Slovenia and Italy develop the operation of national institutions and seek their accreditation in the future. Two COEs (in Norway and France) have remained national to this day, i.e. only one country participates in their operation.
As an example, the country of Estonia made a proposal to establish a Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) as early as 2004. While the Alliance was making a decision, Estonians set up CCDCOE premises in conformity with the highest security standards, selected staff and opened the center coordinating the country’s efforts in the area of cyber security in 2006. A year later, negotiations with NATO partners willing to join the activities of the center were initiated. After the famous attacks on Estonian websites in 2007, Estonians issued a report and started bringing forward cooperation projects within the framework of the Alliance. The initiative of our Nordic neighbors proved to be well-timed – it contributed to reaching a cooperation agreement with six partners of the Alliance by the middle of 2008 and obtaining NATO’s accreditation in October the same year. Some countries chose a different way – for instance, in 2009 the Center of Excellence for Military Medicine in Hungary was simultaneously founded by several countries (Hungary, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Romania) and was accredited by NATO in the same year.
Thus, Centers of Excellence are nationally or multinationally sponsored entities that train and educate specialists from NATO member and partner countries through seminars and conferences, assist in doctrine development and set standards, identify lessons learned, improve interoperability, enhance NATO’s capabilities, and test and validate concepts through experimentation. The Centers of Excellence offer expertise and experience in specific areas which are of benefit to the Alliance, while avoiding the duplication of activities already present within NATO headquarters. Nearly all of them are international military organizations, and the establishment, accreditation, preparation for accreditation, coordination of activities and assessment of future centers falls to the responsibility of Allied Command Transformation based in Norfolk, Virginia in the United States. Formally, Centers of Excellence are not part of the NATO command structure and the Alliance does not finance their activities directly, therefore, the COEs are sponsored by Framework Nations, Sponsoring Nations and Contributing Nations. On the other hand, the COEs are part of the network of a wider institutional structure supporting the operation of NATO’s strategic commands and headquarters, through the implementation of agreements, expansion of capacities, etc.
‘Centers of Excellence’ accreditation: What do we need and what do we have?
For a new entity to gain approval, it must first prove its capacity to create added value in the area important to the Alliance’s transformation process. Two aspects play a role in this context – an institution must act within NATO’s responsibility limits and showcase its faculty to create added value. In this context, we may note that energy-security related topics have been on the agenda of the Alliance for a long time; today, NATO does not consider "whether it is necessary" but "how" to contribute to the solution of energy security problems. For instance, at the NATO Summit held in November 2010 – its final declaration provides for a commitment to integrate energy security into NATO’s activities. Hence, Lithuania’s idea to seek NATO’s approval for the center which will monitor processes, organize training and research, carry out expert seminars and exercises, prepare methodical material of response to threats, strengthen the capacities of energy crisis management and the commitments of collective defence, definitely falls within this context.
The requirement for the creation of added value is no less important – with a view to pursuing accreditation. A COE must not only declare its intentions and programs but also have the required experience and specialists capable of executing work in pursuit of strengthening NATO’s capacities for reacting to the most relevant challenges to security. On the one hand, we must admit that we do not have many energy security specialists in Lithuania; they are scattered across individual scientific institutions and public bodies. On the other hand, the problem can be solved by coordinating the activities of such specialists. Professionals meeting high standards of competence can be found at universities, institutes, centers, ministries, authorities and departments – the consolidation of their activities and those of their colleagues from abroad is among the most important objectives of the NATO Center of Excellence. Yet another aspect should not be forgotten – as a rule, not only local scientists or strategists shaping policy and capabilities create added value in an organizations of this type but value is also added by military officers assigned by the armed forces (in particular – in the organization of training courses and exercises, preparation of concepts, strategies, documents of tactical and operational significance), as well as by diplomats (in coordination of cooperation with partners) and specialists in other areas.
Currently, eight persons are employed at the national Energy Security Center under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is used as the basis for the future NATO Center of Excellence. After accreditation, the human resources of the NATO Center of Excellence should increase to approximately 30. Lithuania expects to employ 10 people and to cover all administrative costs. Lithuania’s financial contribution may amount to LTL 1.3 million (370,000 Euro); the total budget of the COE will depend on the number of participating countries and the level of ambition of participants. The funding of the equivalent institution in Tallinn is based on a similar scheme – over one million litas per year is collected from participating countries for operations alone (i.e. exclusive of salaries, maintenance of buildings, etc.); the center might be able to earn additional income to cover the expenses of its activities. Hence, it is obvious that with a view towards pursuing NATO accreditation, Lithuania will not only have to convince partners to join this initiative but to allocate solid financial resources for the maintenance of the center. While there remain a number of administrative steps and hurdles to overcome, Lithuania hopes that, if successful, the NATO ENSEC COE will be put into operation as of 2013.
On his visit to Lithuania in November 2011, NATO's Assistant Secretary General Gábor Iklódy expressed his support for Lithuania’s position asserting that today the issues of energy security are not the matter of concern of individual countries but for the Alliance in general. According to him, “solidarity on the issue of energy security is severely needed in the Alliance.” In the meantime, NATO member countries tend to approach the issues of energy security from different perspectives; they have their peculiar, often diverging, approaches that rely on national interests. Energy security is often considered an issue of national economic policy, the solution to which the countries tend to associate with their exclusive responsibility. Furthermore, some countries see a more active NATO role in the area of energy security. Still others see NATO engagement on energy security as an attempt to militarize an essentially economic issue. Finally, the issues of energy security is tightly linked with NATO partners – the dependence on energy resources from partner countries, the energy policy of these countries, etc. In the context of NATO members’ varying intensity of energy [import] dependence and in lieu of other cooperation initiatives with partners, diverging positions on NATO’s role and priorities may emerge. To convince member countries to join Lithuania’s initiative by coordinating their diverging approaches is the first challenging task for Lithuania.
The second potential obstacle to successful accreditation –issues of energy security are already a matter of concern for a number of international organizations, starting with the EU, the International Energy Agency, the IAEA and ending with the OSCE. NATO’s endeavor to contribute additional capacities are often seen by these organizations as an aspiration to take over a share of their responsibilities in the field of energy security. Nevertheless, NATO's New Strategic Concept should at least partially contribute to solving this problem: the concept enumerates at least several areas where NATO could create added value – the protection of critical energy infrastructure, the military application of energy innovations and the promotion of international cooperation. In these areas a NATO ENSEC COE could try to develop and lead certain communities of interest which would contribute to improving cooperation between NATO institution and subdivisions, to develop and execute training courses, to initiate research activities, to organize conferences and exhibitions, and also to work on exercises and do other relevant activities. Many of these activities are already part of the ESC Work Program: in 2011 the ESC started with several periodical publications, organized conference and exhibition on energy innovations for military needs (IESMA 2011), and later contributed to existing international military training activities, etc.
Potential focus areas for the NATO Center of Excellence for Energy Security
With regards the promotion of energy innovations in the military area, the Alliance implements the Science for Peace program, with discussions on scientific achievements regularly held at the NATO Research and Technology Organization within its framework. In the meantime, member countries invest hundreds of millions of Euros per year in research which could reduce the costs and contribute to the saving of fossil fuel (oil products) used in operations and exercises. Either independently or in cooperation with Ministries of Defence, scientists, researchers and manufacturers already work in several areas analyzing possibilities for replacing conventional fuels intended for military use by alternative fuels and fuel-blends.; they create and test energy (fuel, heat) saving technologies, develop technologies contributing to strengthening the security of fuel transportation and storage, etc. The latter area is of particular relevance today – the fuel intended for operations increasingly becomes the target of terrorist or pirate attacks, which is a significant constraint on military missions. However, innovations in other two areas could result in tangible benefits as well: they would enhance the security of soldiers participating in military operations, contribute to the solution of climate change problems, decrease the dependence on resources through efficiency measures, or reduce the cost of overall Alliance operations. In other words, with the resources available, NATO could operate more safely and achieve better results.
Recent years have brought another alarming tendency to the fore: the infrastructure of transportation, storage, recycling and management of energy resources is becoming a popular target of criminal acts committed by terrorist groups, maritime pirates and hackers. Furthermore, as illustrated by the conflicts in Georgia, Libya, Nigeria and elsewhere, the destruction of energy infrastructure may become targeted during conflict. Successful attacks against these assets may delay the supply of oil, gas, electricity and water required for soldiers in theaters of military operations or may affect civilians in large urban areas; attacks may impair communication systems and challenge the reputation of countries exporting or transporting energy resources. In response to such tendencies, the members of the Alliance could join efforts in ensuring the protection of infrastructure located on their territory or the territory of the countries that are not members of the Alliance.
In a broad sense, NATO’s activities in the area of protection of critical energy infrastructure may not only imply physical assurance of security by military measures but also may include the exchange of intelligence information, national experience and technologies. In other words, the Alliance could become a place where after extensive consultations essential decisions are taken in regards to the identification of threats to energy infrastructure assets, the development of military units for the protection of infrastructure, the distribution of costs for the “protection” of particularly vulnerable transport corridors, the future of the NATO pipeline system, the development of relations with the partners, etc. Also, the Alliance could contribute to the liquidation of damage in the case of accidents, install cyber and other energy infrastructure protective measures preventing activities targeted against energy infrastructure from ever taking place.
The “internationalization” of the issue of energy security is yet another equally important potential focus area of the Center of Excellence to be founded in Lithuania. It is self-evident that human and financial resources impose a significant limitation on the objectives of the national governments in the area of strengthening energy security – few countries can invest in energy innovations, infrastructure, relations with alternative suppliers to the extent that would make them feel safe or safer. Nevertheless, it is possible to achieve at least partial solutions to these problems through cooperation with countries holding similar interests for instance in the case of lessening dependence on a single or several suppliers, resources, and transportation routes. Multinational cooperation may be particularly important, i.e. cooperation that would involve the most influential international organizations dealing in one way or another with energy today (EU, NATO, UN, OSCE, WTO, World Bank). Once the issue of relegating heretofore bilateral agendas relating to energy suppliers to the EU is achieved, it may be possible to create conditions for competition (reducing the cost of resources) and encourage the application of innovations (contributing to energy savings, the use of alternative resources, etc.). The Center of Excellence for Energy Security could contribute to maximizing the potential for international cooperation – helping member countries “rediscover” the benefit of the NATO consulting mechanism, ongoing alliance transformation and consensus decision-making procedures.
Contributor Ambassador Audrius Brūzga, is the Director of Energy Security Center under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania