Interview with Ambassador Matthew Bryza

Interview conducted by Arin Demir, NATO 2030 Global Fellowship Cohort Member 

Within the efforts of the NATO2030 concept, NATO members are working together on different subjects to enhance the organization's resiliency. Strengthening this resiliency requires a broader approach as most European members have a natural gas relationship with Russia. A stable and reliable energy supply by diversification of routes, suppliers and energy resources, and the interconnectivity of energy networks are among the main topics for ensuring such resiliency. In the same vein, the invasion of Ukraine again proves the importance of how much energy security should be an important part of collective security understanding where internal coordination-consultation against Russia's political or economic manipulations on European Allies has been becoming more important than ever. Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza believes that NATO's primary responsibility will always be in the traditional security realm. He also states that "The North Atlantic Council has a role to play in the coordination of the European Commission, the Council and the Member States to make sure everybody's pulling together in one unified strategy" to increase the coordination and consultation of the alliance. In the scope of the NATO2030 Global Fellowship program, we have discussed the strategies that could contribute to the NATO2030 concept in the energy security realm, spanning from the limitations of intelligence sharing to the role of non-state actors for deeper political consultation and coordination.

  1. Arin Demir: Political divergences within NATO are dangerous because they enable external actors, particularly Russia and China, to exploit intra-Alliance differences. On the other hand, many alliance members have a dependence on Russian gas at different levels. In this context, how could the alliance minimize its dependency multilaterally on Russian gas supplies and maximize internal coordination-consultation against Russia’s political or economic manipulations? What can you tell us with your efforts in this regard in the past?

When Russia loses this war then we should not race back to business as usual in a natural gas relationship with Russia.

Matthew Bryza: This is one of the biggest geoeconomic questions within the transatlantic alliance these days. What should have happened is what we were urging a long time ago. In the summer of 2006, I went to the North Atlantic Council with our Assistant Secretary of State for Economics and Business Ambassador, Anthony Wayne. In this meeting, we were appealing to all of the rest of our NATO allies to pay attention to the risk of this over-dependence on Russian gas for the alliance. The response was positive from General Jones, who was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in that period. He said discussing the risk of dependence on Russian gas for the alliance is a crucial subject as a part of security debates. Nevertheless, other members of NATO didn't want to do discuss it in the NATO context, especially Norway. It was ironic that they didn’t want to talk about it because Norway actually is a big gas producer. In those days, they wanted to develop some fields with Russian investors in the Barents Sea. So, they didn't want energy security to become a politicized issue in the scope of NATO. We highlighted this was a huge mistake. We warned them Russia is going to use this dependency to exploit alliance through political or economic manipulation in the future.

 

In the same period, the approach to  energy security matters was similar in Germany. I went to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to meet with the deputy minister to make the same points as I did at the NAC. He was very polite, but then gently asked me to leave, suggesting that Germany’s energy security is none of our business in Washington. I even remember we had a conversation like this. He told me that "Why does the US care about our natural gas relationship with Russia?" My response to Mr. Minister was, "We know Russia will use gas at some point to try to manipulate you just like they did a few months ago when they cut off Europe via Ukraine.”

 

In light of these examples, the first part of my answer is that Europe should have been working to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas a long time ago. Instead, they took the easy path of shady business dealings and a naïve faith that Russia would “change through trade”. They focused on making money and did not believe that Russian business people would be used to manipulate them. At the end of the day, it wasn't the Russian business people; it was Putin who planned to use natural gas as political leverage.

 

Today, we need to have learned from this. When Russia loses in Ukraine, then we should not race back to business as usual in terms of a natural gas relationship with Russia. There are plenty of people beginning with Emmanuel Macron, who are ready for business as usual with Russia. We cannot do that. Europe has to now stay on this much healthier path.

 

  1. Demir: What policies should European NATO members follow for deeper political consultation and coordination in energy security to decrease dependency on Russia in the light of recent events?  

 

Europe needs to do what Germany's planning on doing to build LNG import terminals.

 

Bryza: It is great what Chancellor Olaf Scholz did back in February when he said Nord Stream 2 is suspended. Here, the crucial thing is Nord Stream 2 needs to be canceled, not suspended. The real crux of the response to your question is that European allies need to do what Germany plans to do; to build LNG import terminals. They need to be working with liquid natural gas producers in the United States, and a vast region spanning from Australia, Mozambique, and Algeria to Nigeria, and be lining up long-term purchase contracts. LNG producers will also invest in the production, technology, and plants to ensure more gas is coming once longer-term purchase contracts have been finalized. In parallel, the gas storage facilities in the EU need to be full.

 

All EU member states also need to start doing what Germany has begun to do. Begin to plan for what they're going to do in the absence of Russian gas this winter. They have to start assessments of who are the priority off-gas taker. Of course, the top priorities are going to be households, hospitals, and schools. The more important question here is, which industries are not going to get the gas that they need? They need to start planning now. They're not going to be able to replace all 155 BCM that the EU imported from Russia last year, but they can get a lot from LNG. There is no new gas available in Azerbaijan, but there is a lot of LNG, though not enough to replace Russian gas delivered by pipeline entirely. In line with this, the Biden administration is working hard to persuade Japan to take less LNG and direct some toward Europe. Everybody's trying to convince the Qataris to send more LNG toward the EU space, but there will not be enough gas for this winter. Therefore, we need to be much more efficient in using our energy.

 

  1. Demir: The Smart Energy agenda describes NATO’s efforts to enhance the energy efficiency of its armed forces. It is stated that this could be achieved by a wide range of means such as renewables. Do you also believe that alternative gas routes like Eastern Mediterranean could become part of NATO’s Smart Energy agenda to reduce energy dependency on Russian gas?

 

The real answer for the alliance will be to invest in LNG in the short run and decrease Russian consumption.

 

Bryza: Turkey calls the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline the proposed pipeline from Israel to Turkey. On the contrary Greece, the Greek Cypriots and Israeli call the East Med pipeline the proposed  pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Greece. I don't think that the second one makes any commercial sense, and the United States has pulled its political support for this EastMed project. The Biden administration realized that the only reason that pipeline was on the table was to circumvent Turkey.

 

We need to be doing the opposite now, meaning bringing Turkey into the energy gambit in the eastern Mediterranean, which is also what makes commercial sense. In line with this, natural gas from Israel to Turkey makes the most commercial sense of any export route, besides sending modest quantities to Egypt to be liquefied and sent to global markets. However, that Israel-Turkey project is going to take years to complete. It does not provide any sort of relief over the next two years for Europe, as it needs to reduce its gas purchases from Russia now. The real answer for the alliance will be to invest in LNG in the short run and decrease gas consumption.

 

  1. Demir: In addition to the green investments in energy supply, does the supply of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and expanding the capacity of LNG terminals could be a significant strategy for energy diversification of Allies rather than Russian long-term contracts through gas pipelines? 

There is really little sense in this day and age in investing in new pipelines unless you want to control and manipulate countries with your natural gas supplies like Russia tries to do. LNG provides the best way to help NATO diversify supplies.

 

Bryza: The European market is now very attractive for LNG producers. Europe needs the LNG and they're willing to pay more by secure it. The European Commission believes there is little sense in this era of the Global Energy Transition [to decarbonized energy]  in investing in new pipelines, unless you want to control and manipulate countries with your natural gas supplies like Russia tries to do. Today it makes way more sense to invest in liquid natural gas. I think the vast majority of natural gas supplies in the world will never be commercially developed because soon we will be out of this crisis related to Russian natural gas supplies and the EU will shift its focus on decarbonized energy like renewables and hydrogen.  Meanwhile, LNG will provide the best way to help NATO diversify supplies.

 

  1. Demir: As a military security alliance, how could be the organizational role of NATO’s North Atlantic Council and intersectional tenets of discussing energy security to enhance political cohesion and convergence in energy security matters within the alliance?

 

The NAC has a role to play in the coordination of the European Commission, the Council and the Member States to make sure everybody's pulling together in one unified strategy.

 

Bryza: It depends on what the North Atlantic Council wants to do. Energy is not traditionally part of the NAC’s normal remit. When I was there in 2006, the NAC shied away from discussing energy security. However, after the invasion of Ukraine, I think that has begun to change. I think the NAC now thinks about everything you and I are talking about. They need to coordinate the energy security issues. That coordination should be in harmony with a strategy in close partnership with the European Union.

 

By the way, renewable investments are the way of the future. But, when the sun doesn't shine and when the wind isn't blowing, you need another continuous energy source. Still, the cleanest way to do that for now, is natural gas. In this context, the NAC has a role to play in the coordination of the European Commission, the Council and the Member States to make sure everybody's pulling together in one unified strategy. Besides, NATO's primary responsibility is always going to be in the traditional security realm and not dominantly on economic issues.

 

  1. Demir: Energy supplies to the member nations are crucial for protecting the agility and capability of armies as well as civilian energy networks. In this context, should NATO internalize a standard procedure to impede instability for the times of possible oil or gas cuts and deductions to follow?

 

NATO has to coordinate with the European Union and the Union Member States to make sure oil is flowing where it needs to go.

 

 

Bryza: NATO doesn't own gas pipelines. NATO has oil pipelines so NATO has to coordinate with the European Union and EU Member States to make sure oil is flowing where it needs to go. I assume that's already happening. Officials ensure that NATO facilities have the fuel they need, but NATO militaries don't rely much on natural gas. They need liquid fuel. But otherwise, as I was saying, for the overall energy security of Europe, that's primarily a European Union and Member States’ job.

 

  1. Demir: In the Ukraine War, we have seen that the Russian Military especially targets critical energy sources, which causes hardship in the movement capability of military forces in some areas. What does the Ukraine example related to the energy sources show about protecting energy supplies?

 

Wars are won and lost on logistics. The most important elements of logistics are fuel and food.

 

Bryza: Energy is essential to war efforts. Wars are won and lost on logistics. The most important elements of logistics are fuel and food. So yes, it's self-evident that energy is critical to any military. You can't drive your tank, and fly your plane if you don't have the fuel.

 

  1. Demir: On which aspect non-state actors such as International Energy Agency or other institutional authorities as stakeholders in the energy sector could contribute to the strategic-level political consultations and coordination of the Alliance?

 

Elected political leaders can only make these decisions. Not by a think tank like the IEA or not by bureaucrats in the European Commission. Directly heads of state need to take these tough decisions to create robust coordination.

 

Bryza: IEA is basically a consortium of oil consumer countries. During the early 1970s, IEA was formed during the oil price shocks and it is essentially a think tank. Therefore, IEA is not appropriate for contributing to the strategic-level political consultations or coordination of the Alliance. That said, the IEA is a great think tank.  I relied on it heavily when I was coordinating U.S. policy on energy security in Europe. They were great at organizing conferences that brought everybody together. On the one hand, they have no sovereign authority and they are looked upon as a wise organization that can help the policymakers. They're not policymakers, they have analysts and great ones. In 2007, we asked them to bring together leading figures of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, meaning senior government officials and corporate executives  to discuss the same thing we're talking about now.

 

Ultimately, only elected political leaders can make these decisions. Heads of state need to take these tough decisions to create robust coordination. For instance now, leaders have to go back to their populations and say, ‘‘We benefited for years from cheap energy prices but things have changed If you don't want Ukraine to be destroyed and controlled by Russia. If you don't want Russia to be moving its troops into our fellow NATO allies then we're going to have to pay some more for our energy supply.’’  By and large, European leaders are doing it and they deserve credit. This is a great moment for the transatlantic family, where self-interest is not ruling the day. We have all come together. But it's still not enough. Now Europe needs to think strategically. It can't be distracted by narrow, selfish business interests like Germany has allowed happening for all these years. Hungary is also doing it now by blocing an EU consensus on an oil embargo against Russia.

 

  1. Demir: NATO 2030 expert group report cited that ‘‘Allies should increase their situational awareness by sharing intelligence and exchanges with outside experts on energy development’’. In line with this, what should be the limitations of sharing intelligence for effective governance to create a robust situational awareness?

 

Top government leaders sometimes who do not pay attention to threats should have intelligence accessed or shared, as in Germany's Nord Stream 2 case.

 

Bryza: I don't think outside experts need any intelligence. Now, I'm an outside expert though  I was formerly an inside operator. I had the highest possible security clearance. The highly classified information is highly classified for the most part because of how the information was obtained, the so-called  “sources and methods”. I have subsequently come to realize, however, that the vast majority of  the information you need to make a good strategic decision available on energy security in available in open sources such as the Financial Times, Bloomberg and other related sectorial journals, as well as the IEA and the Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy. Having said that,  I also think top government leaders in some countries could sometimes  benefit from sensitive intelligence information that could be shared with them, as in Germany's Nord Stream 2 case. We knew in the US what Putin's plans were for Nord Stream 2, to manipulate the German politicians and business leaders. That information should have been shared with the German side.

 

  1. Demir: Last year, the monetary equivalent of Russia’s oil and natural gas exports was over $165 billion. How would the implications of investments towards green energy and energy diversification efforts by the members impact the energy ecosystem and institutional capacity of Russia until 2030?

 

Russia's economy is going back to the Communist era.

 

Bryza: Russia earns more than that. They've been earning nearly a billion dollars per day. The impact is going to be devastating for the Russian economy. The whole idea of the sanction policies is to cripple the Russian economy so Putin can't use the money to murder Ukrainians. It's going to be terrible for Russia. Russia's economy is going back to the Communist era. Many Western multinational corporations are leaving Russia regardless of their financial losses. Russia invaded a country and is now committing atrocities against civilians. As a consequence of these brutalities, they are going to suffer. I don't say that happily, but Russia’s economy is going to be hamstrung because it invaded and violated international law, norms, all peaceful principles.

 

The Biden administration and the European Union and the World Bank had decided not to provide financial support for natural gas projects.. From my point of view, during this energy transition they should have decided to support natural gas and nuclear. It was still being fought over up until February 24th when Putin invaded Ukraine. Now there's no question that natural gas is going to play a big role in Europe's energy mix for a longer time. But still, if you read between the lines, the European leadership is generally saying we need to reduce our consumption of natural gas. The goal is no more Russian gas after 2027 across Europe.

 

Policy Recommendations of Ambassador (R) Matthew Bryza on deeper political consultation and coordination with the NATO on Energy Security Topic;

 

  • The NAC has a role to play in the coordination of the European Commission, the Council and the Member States to make sure everybody's pulling together in one unified strategy.

 

  • NATO has to coordinate with the European Union and the Union Member States to make sure gas is flowing where it needs to go.

 

  • Directly heads of state need to take macro decisions to create robust coordination within the NATO.

 

  • NATO's primary responsibility is always going to be in the traditional security realm and not dominantly on energy security.

 

  • Non-state actors or bureaucrats for contributing to the strategic-level political consultations or coordination of the Alliance are not appropriate. There should be consultations and coordination in the heads of state level.

 

  • Outside experts don’t need any access to highly classified to formulate strategic recommendations on energy security.

 

  • The European Commission believes there is little sense in investing in major new natural gas projects requiring large pipelines. 

 

  • LNG provides the quickest way to help NATO diversify supplies. Europe also needs to build more LNG import terminals, as Germany's planning to do, and also increase the interconnectivity of LNG import terminals and pipeline infrastructure

 

  • When Russia loses this war then member states of NATO should not race back to business as usual natural gas relationship with Russia.

 

  • NATO countries should start assessments for who are the priority off-gas takers this winter.

 

  • Renewable investments are the way of the future. On the other hand, the transition will take time, so the  Alliance still need another continuous cleaner energy source such as natural gas.