By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security
Although the Shangri-La Dialogue will hold much of the Institute’s – and international – attention over the coming week, the IISS will remain active on other issues.
Yesterday, the IISS’ Bahrain office held the NATO Gulf Strategic Dialogue, bringing together a range of practitioners and academics, and in just under a week the Geo-Economics and Strategy Programme will run a seminar on Oil, Gas and Maritime Security.
The timing of these two sessions is not entirely coincidental. Just last week, the US Navy wrapped up its second annual two-week International Mine Counter-Measures Exercise (IMCMEX). Involving participants from 41 different countries, the exercises are essentially a form of deterrent diplomacy.
By Pierre Noel, Hassanal Bolkiah Senior Fellow in Economic and Energy Security
In the Baltic states, energy security remains perceived as a truly serious issue. It’s seen as a question of survival rather than, as it is in much of the world, merely an exciting topic for after-dinner speeches. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania depend entirely on Russia for their gas supply and have complicated political relationships with Moscow. Recent numerical indicators of gas-supply security – including my own – show that the Baltics are among the least secure countries in Europe. Therefore they want to invest in gas-supply security.
The European Commission encourages them to do so, but has precise ideas about how it should be done: it has made subsidies contingent on the building of joint regional infrastructure. Brussels’ dream however, although aggressively pursued since 2009, has failed to materialise. In fact, Baltic gas-security cooperation faces serious political and even legal hurdles. Steps already taken have managed to infuriate Russia without improving the Baltic states’ ability to cope with supply disruptions in any way.
Therefore it is important to know if Baltic cooperation is absolutely needed, simply desirable or just one solution among others to improve Baltic gas-supply security.
By Dr Pierre Noel, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security
Last week, the presidents of Iran and Pakistan inaugurated the final leg of a controversial pipeline enabling Iran to export gas to energy-hungry Pakistan. The US, which has long opposed the much-delayed project, is warning that if it ‘actually goes forward’ the pipeline could breach the sanctions regime against Iran’s nuclear programme and trigger US sanctions against Pakistan.
China’s partial funding of the pipeline complicates the geopolitical implications of the deal.
Lengthy power blackouts are a regular occurrence in Pakistan, causing street protests and undermining the economy. By December 2014, Iran and Pakistan hope to start delivering 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan from Iran’s giant offshore South Pars field in the Persian Gulf. Islamabad plans to use Iranian gas to generate about 20% of its electricity.
By Dr Pierre Noël, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security
‘China is on track to produce enough crude oil outside its borders to rival OPEC members such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates,’ a report in the Financial Times suggested last week. The contention was based on the International Energy Agency’s tally of the impact of recent overseas investments by Chinese state-owned oil firms. These have spent $92 billion buying up rivals since 2009, $35bn of that last year. With these acquisitions, the IEA calculates, China will produce 3 million barrels a day of crude oil abroad in 2015, double its 2011 output of 1.5mbd.
True, the growth of Chinese oil and gas companies’ foreign investments is impressive; they are not only bidding for exploration and production licences in more countries and regions, offshore and onshore, they are also devoting large capital expenditures to buying already discovered reserves and even entire groups such as Canada’s Nexen.
However, it makes little sense to aggregate Chinese oil companies’ international production and interpret it as ‘China’s production abroad’ like this.
By Antonio Sampaio, Research Assistant, Survival and the Armed Conflict Database
It has been a busy year for oil and gas exploration around the Falklands Islands, and also a crucial moment for the islanders’ economy. Speaking at the IISS in London, Jan Cheek, member of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council of the Falkland Islands, explained how the islands’ government is counting on oil revenues to develop and diversify the economy of this remote archipelago. Though the exploratory drilling that had taken place in 2012 had disappointed investors, she described herself as ‘cautiously optimistic about the future’, amid a diplomatic offensive by Argentina to exert its claim over the islands. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jens Wardenaer, Research Analyst and Editorial Assistant
The annual summer minimum for Arctic sea ice has been declining faster than expected, with this year marking a record low.
On 16 September, Arctic sea ice reached its lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979, according to preliminary figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre. At 3.41 million square metres, this year’s melt beat the previous 2007 record by 760,000 square kilometres. But while the decline of sea-ice extent is the most visible metric of climate change in the Arctic, another trend is even more worrying. For the third straight summer the total volume of ice set a new record low, and is now only 20% of the 2000 level.
It is too early to say whether this will be an annual phenomenon, but the speed of the melt has already exceeded prognoses. The record for minimum ice extent was already reached on 26 August, nearly one month earlier than the 2007 record. According to scientists, the rate of decline is faster than any models have been able to capture. Most experts previously thought it possible that the Arctic would be ice-free in the summer by 2050; now more and more scientists believe that may occur as soon as 2030, or even before 2020. Read the rest of this entry »
By Mona Moussavi, Editorial assistant
India has big plans to increase its involvement in Central Asia, including rebuilding Afghanistan into a trade hub along a new Silk Road between the sub-continent and the energy-rich ‘Stans’. Analysts frequently speak of a ‘new great game’ in Central Asia, where Russia, China, Iran and Turkey are already competing for political influence and access to vast reservoirs of oil, gas and other natural resources. With the new ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy that it unveiled in Kyrgyzstan last month, Delhi has signalled its intentions in the region.
Fleshing out the new policy at the IISS this week, Asoke Mukerji, Special Secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said that it would range from closer military cooperation and more proactive diplomacy through bodies such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Community to banking, agricultural and construction projects, including new hospitals and hotels.
By Sarah Johnstone, Assistant editor, online
Russia’s planting of a flag under the North Pole in 2007 was a ‘magnificent’ bit of PR, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said at the IISS this week, but it wasn’t typical of international relations in the Arctic.
At the launch of the institute’s Forum for Arctic Climate Change and Security, Bildt highlighted the need for nations and companies to work together in the polar region. Rapid climate change – twice as fast in the Arctic than elsewhere – was opening up new maritime routes and opportunities for resources exploration. However, he insisted, it remained a harsh environment that made cooperation necessary.
This relatively benign assessment surprised some of his London audience, one of whom said the issue of Arctic security normally in the UK focused warily on what the Russians were doing. Bildt admitted that Vladimir Putin’s election manifesto was ‘not entirely in tune with what I’m saying’. However, he stuck by his earlier assertion that the Arctic region had become much less militarised since the end of the Cold War.
By Hanna Ucko, Global Conflicts Analyst; Coordinator, Armed Conflict Database
At least 362,000 people have died during this period, and the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its African Union peacekeeping allies remain embroiled in an all-out conflict with the Islamist group al-Shabaab. Ethiopia – again – and Kenya – for the first time – have both also recently sent troops into Somalia. Decades of such fighting has greatly damaged the country’s infrastructure as well as its stability.
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