Energy Geopolitics Deserves Center Stage; for U.S. and EU, Energy Security Is Tantamount to National Security
Byline: Alexandros Petersen, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
KABUL, Afghanistan -- What little-known international issue is key to our relationship with Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Russia, Turkey, the countries of Central Asia and our European allies? Eurasia's energy geopolitics cut across more U.S. foreign and energy policy priorities than any other topic of discussion in Washington. The problem is that energy in Eurasia is not receiving the kind of high-level attention it deserves from this administration. While Moscow, Beijing and Tehran take the nexus of energy and foreign policy very seriously, Washington is playing catch-up across the Eurasian continent.
Since World War II, European countries and even the substantial bloc of the European Union have not had much of a policy toward China. But over the winter holidays, China's state-owned energy company, CNPC, completed a natural gas pipeline across Central Asia to Turkmenistan on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. An EU-backed consortium is at the same time working on the Nabucco gas pipeline, to reach Turkmen gas reserves from the west. Energy has brought China to the EU's neighborhood. Energy geopolitics have forced our NATO allies to consider a China policy for Eurasia.
China's Central Asian coup also has jeopardized plans for energy development in NATO's other theater of operations, Afghanistan. U.S. companies and the Asian Development Bank have long advocated a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to consumers in Pakistan and India. Afghan officials had touted the project as a potential facilitator of stability and rural development, a catalyst for more than 3,000 energy-related small businesses across the country. Now it looks much more likely that Pakistan and India will get their gas through a pipeline from Iran, enriching a regime that may well send the region into a tailspin if its nuclear ambitions are fulfilled.
In mid-January, the EU signed an energy deal with Iraq's central government that could see gas from the country's Kurdish areas supplement the gas for Nabucco that was supposed to have to have come from Turkmenistan. It is urgent that consumers in EU and NATO countries gain access to new gas resources because of the West's relationship with another major Eurasian power, Russia. Much of Central and Eastern Europe is dependent on Russian gas for winter heating, but Moscow has tried to use that uneven relationship to its advantage, splitting energy and foreign policies within the EU and NATO. Russia's disputes with its neighboring transit states - Ukraine and Belarus - have caused annual gas crises for European consumers since 2006. For key U.S. allies like Poland and Romania, energy security and national security are one and the same.
Three successive U. …