The triadic nexus: Energy factor, national security and foreign policy

Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone” -Winston Churchill

here is a doctrine in classical geopolitics: “Who controls Eurasia, (Heartland) eventually, he will be able to run the world. In subsequent times, historical development resulted in the pivotal changes in the foreign policies, in particular, political interests of states. Hence, the doctrine was changed into a new dogma in terms of the historical and geopolitical changes in the contemporary world order. “Who possesses energy resources sooner or later he can put the world under his control.

In today’s globalized world, maintenance of energy security stands on the agenda of states. Ostensibly, states clearly comprehend the pivotal impact of energy on both national security and foreign policy. Therefore, they can be considered as an indispensable “triangle” within the policy of states. In order to realize the importance of energy security, it could be better to trace back to the historical period.

On the threshold of the World War I, First Lord of Admiralty, Winston Churchill made a historical move that he transferred the main power source of British Navy from Welsh coal to oil; because of the fact that he had in mind to make the Royal armada much faster than its German counterpart. This historical switch from coal to oil meant that not only did Royal navy not depend on Welsh coal, but also he clearly expressed the diversification of supply as a fundamental principle of energy security. This pivotal decision had formed the course of the war against counterparts. As a consequence of this historically important footstep, today national security, in particular, homeland security lies in the hands of energy factor. Afterward, since Churchill’s crucial answer, energy security has been the number one issue on the agenda of states that nowadays, they strive to answer these questions regarding what are the key principles of energy security and how they can preserve the energy resources within national security?! It is undeniable fact that the fervent interests of states over energy enhanced amid the World War II. As a result, the major powers and allies lacking meaningful resources strived to gain access to wealthy energy resources in particular areas; Middle East, Caspian Sea and Romania. Indeed, the main concerns on energy consisted of gaining broad access to energy-rich areas in order to not only did ensure their energy demands and preserve energy resources within their national security. Basically, if energy security puts the question on national strategy, first and foremost, national security and then foreign policy have to be taken into account in order to realize the key principles of energy security. Between the threshold of the two wars, energy was used as an effective response to military power.

The immense concerns over energy security began with the 1973-1974 Arab-Israel War and the foundation of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Throughout that period, OPEC using the energy factor as a strategic weapon imposed oil boycott against major energy-importing countries and suspended the export of oil to the West, mainly European countries and the U.S. Afterward, to a large extent, the West, in particular, the U.S realized the crucial power of energy and kicked off the maintenance and rational usage of energy supplies. In truth, the boycott was really arduously strategic lesson for the West and caused “energy syndrome” that they realized the major impact of energy factor and tried to adequately secure the energy supplies within their internal and external policy. The dependence on energy resources put the energy security as a major issue of national security on states and societies. Hence, to provide energy security means the preservation of national security and to ensure the security of both of them defines the rational implementation of foreign policy. In today’s world, large-scale access to energy resources at affordable costs, to ensure the upholding of energy security is one of the vital national interests of states (as a key example the U.S, Russia, China and etc).

Energy and national security have always been closely linked. As a key example, after the 1990s the homeland security of the U.S based on the providing energy security and diversification of energy supplies. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, he considered the energy security as a main issue of the U.S foreign policy. Today, the energy issue does not have to be restricted to oil, because of the fact that the diversification of energy supplies and large-scale access to alternative energy resources can lessen or prevent the future distortion of energy supplies. Nowadays, in order to prevent some social and economic turmoil over energy supplies, first and foremost, the world’s states has proved the gas as important energy resources as oil, and have to gain broad access to flexible liquefied natural gas resources (LNG), and clean coal technology at the same time, for the future development, states need to build the transparent global market to export their both oil and flexible gas resources across the energy-importing countries. Today, states should have to achieve the flexibility of natural gas, because it is undeniable fact that the positive development of LNG market will boost their security.   States immensely realize the future development of LNG business, because the rational exporting of flexible natural gas resources can contribute to further diversification of energy supplies as well as resources. Hence, within the umbrella of energy security states can preserve not only their national security but also gain access to the renewable or alternative energy sources as well. For instance, for upcoming years, up to 2020, LNG could constitute 25 to 30 % of total gas spending of the US, compared to 3 % in the previous year, 2004.

Energy security is utterly important for each state in terms of ensuring its national security. In this way, states strive to take strategic steps and involve far more investments in their countries in order to provide their national security necessities. Fundamentally, in order to provide energy security and self-sufficiency in terms of national security and foreign policy, each state should take crucially strategic prospects such as setting up new alliances, fortifying collective energy security, stating its interests with energy-exported countries, in particular, the rise of state power in energy.

It is ostensible fact that nation states should have to take into account the future threats to their national security that comes from the concentration of energy resources. Currently, we are observing different kinds of challenges to national security that prevent countries from taking major steps regarding energy resources. These challenges are not limited to terrorism, social and economic turmoil, political crisis, armed disputes, and piracy. For instance, natural disasters also engender huge damages and disruptions in the flows of energy resources as well. Hurricane namely Katrina and Rita caused far more damages and disruption of the flows of energy resources; oil, gas and electric power in 2005.

What does the energy security mean for the major states?! - To date, energy means “security of demand” for the energy-exporting countries and they try to maintain the sufficient demand within their policy. Energy security means varied interests and intentions among different countries, but on a whole, it has to be acclimatized to national security and foreign policy.

For the U.S, energy security means the ensuring of diversification of energy supplies and adequate access to a new global market in order to maintain homeland security. According to Russia, the main aim is to implement state control over energy resources, attain the prime role over the main energy pipelines and demonstrate its strategic role in the global market environment. China tries to controls access to what is basically the largest possible market for its energy products in terms of reaching the sufficient stage of economic development. From the standpoint of Japan, the prevention of scarcity of domestic resources through investment, trade and diversification of supply is the pivotal policy. The main aim of the Europe is how to reduce the reliance on gas resources and how to convert the gas resources into new coal technology as in previous times. Nowadays, the conception of energy security has to be extended to involve the defense of energy supply chain and energy infrastructure on the agenda of states. Because of the fact that the growing balance of energy interdependence and the energy trade put important duties in front of both energy-exporting and importing countries in order to secure the energy supply chain and global energy marketplace as well.

According to Jan H. Kalicki and David L. Goldwyn’s standpoint, the energy security consists of key principles. The first principle subjects to the diversification of energy supplies that can be achieved by broad access to alternative energy sources and then the establishment of new-fangled energy platforms and infrastructures in order to develop them sufficiently. Therefore, diversification of energy resources is paramount both for energy security as well as for competitiveness The second crucial point premises on the creation of far more stable and well-functioning energy market in order to sell energy products at affordable prices. Hence, to provide the stability of global market can enhance the accessibility and affordability of energy products among consumers and exporters. In fact, for all consumers security dwells in the flexible and stable market. The third code rests on the “security margin”. That can create “a buffer zone” in order to prevent damages and disruption of flows of energy supplies and secure the energy infrastructures. The fourth principle mainly concerns on the essential role of high-quality information. The good-quality information can strengthen the well-functioning and flexible energy markets. For example, International Energy Agency (IEA) leads the way of delivering the well-organized flow of information between consumers and exporters within the international energy market. This information can provide the consumers as well as exporters regarding for instance, the flexibility of liquid natural gas (LNG) resources and the rational export and import of these resources in energy market satisfactorily. The fifth principle refers to the implementation of research-development (R&D) and innovative breakthroughs within energy spectrum in terms of the preserving of energy security. The next ones focus on the creation of supportive and transparent relations between energy-exported and imported countries, technologically-driven energy industry producing new generation of energy resources as a means of ensuring energy security and etc. These focal principles of energy security can be considered the main provider of national security and foreign policy. For this reason, according to some scholars, energy security, national security and foreign policy can be called the successful “triangle” in international political economy.    

Briefly, in the contemporary world order, energy security is considered as a focal engine of national security and foreign policy. The immense demand for energy, basically, access to stable and flexible market with affordable prices creates a more competitive environment between energy importers and exporters. In a world of growing interdependence, energy security depends largely on the level of bilateral and multilateral relations among states at energy spectrum. Indeed, energy is defined as the lifeblood of states for not only their survival and well-being but also their national, regional and global security.

Nargiz Hajiyeva

Nargiz Uzeir Hajiyeva is a policy analyst and independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She holds master degree from Vytautas Magnus University and Institute de Politique de Paris (Science Po). She got bachelor degree with distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She was also a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, on how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons, by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School. She is also an independent researcher and a policy analyst at and platform, and Wikistrat.Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman In International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. 


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