Background Report: German ,,Geopolitics"and the Struggle for Energy Sources

BERLIN Germany and the European Union must depend increasingly on energy imports. Berlin views the ,,geopolitical consequences"of this dependence on energy resources in other nations as of the ,,utmost strategic importance"for its ambitions as a world power. For that reason, Germany has been urging for some time that the EU engage in joint activities to assert political power. German government advisors leave no doubt that Berlin and Brussels will also have to adjust to using armed conflicts in the drive for diminishing energy sources in this ,,intensifying economic and political competition for power."

Increasing Need for Energy

Berlin's strategies of independent European world power politics presume that securing the energy supply will decide the fate of its far reaching plans for world power. Second to the USA, the EU is currently the biggest importer and user of energy in the world and thus depends to a great degree on access to (preferably low cost) foreign energy sources. According to estimates by the EU commission, the oil and gas reserves of the EU and Norway will last only another 25 years. Two thirds of the demand for oil and gas must currently be covered by imports. The current dependency on imports of 75% of oil from the OPEC states, could increase to 85% by the year 2020. At the moment the EU still covers 50% of the demand for natural gas from its own sources. Since the British sources in the North Atlantic will soon be depleted , the demand for imports of gas will increase further.

In this regard, Berlin is doubly affected: Germany has, on average, been 60% (1999) more energy dependent compared to other EU member countries, it imports about 98 % of its oil and 75% of its needed gas. German dependency on oil imports will increase considerably: The economic ministry's prognosis suggests a drastic increase of three to six times as much consumption of natural gas. Natural gas which has already become the most used energy in German industry, will be the basis of more than half of Germany's energy by 2020. 1)At the same time, German energy companies already control a large part of the European energy supply and now strive for a particularly dominant position in European natural gas supplies. Several countries already depend considerably on German companies for the shipping and sale of natural gas. Berlin's expert advisors on energy policies, principally, see the following options for the future increase of oil and gas imports: Russia, the Middle East. Central Asia and to a lesser extent Africa.

Africa as a ,,Backyard"

Berlin increasingly strives for access to the energy sources of Africa which is viewed as Europe's ,,backyard"because of its connection with the colonial past. Advisors to Berlin's government explain that ,,Europe"must consolidate its relations with African oil and natural gas providers in order to secure its energy supply. German corporations are expanding their involvement in North Africa, i.e. in Libya, RWE invested in oil and natural gas production. The foreign office is interested in Chad. There, significant oil reserves are to be channeled via pipeline through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea where considerable oil and natural gas resources are located as well. The government of the booming oil state Equatorial Guinea already promotes German involvement in its country. In the current crisis region of Sudan, a German company is to build a railroad which, among others, will serve to transport oil from the South of Sudan.

,,Strategic Partnership"with Russia

At the moment, however, Germany and the EU are primarily concerned with large imports of oil and gas from Russia. This is expressed in the European-Russian ,,energy partnership"which had been proclaimed in October of 2000. This connection is primarily a German-Russian one: ,,Strategic projects"for energy supplies were the focal point of the summit in Jekaterinburg in October of 2003. With this specifically German-Russian ,,strategic partnership,"Berlin intends to reduce the influence of other western states and corporations on the supply of the EU states, especially concerning increasingly important natural gas. In July of 2004 this cooperation was expanded: An agreement with Gazprom (the worlds largest producer of natural gas) facilitates the participation of German companies in the complete processing chain of Russian gas production for the first time - from exploration and transport through the new pipeline to marketing in Western Europe. An additional project is a new gas pipeline from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. This is to pressure, and possibly exclude, the Ukraine and Poland, whose territory had been originally planned for the transit, but which could possibly become unstable and subject to Washington's pressure. 1)Berlin's close cooperation with Moscow is solidified further with the discussion group ,,German-Russian Energy Cooperation,"established by representatives of the economies of both states in March of 2003, and with ,,German-Russian energy summits"of which the next one will take place in Moscow in September.

,,Massive Interest"in the Gulf Region

The particular reason for the energy alliance with Russia, which will supply approximately one third of the German oil and gas imports, are the imponderables of developments in the Middle East and Persian Golf regions. According to the unofficial German Association for Foreign Policy (DGAP), strategic trends of a potentially increasing dependency of the EU on significant oil and gas imports caused competition with the US and its energy policies. Berlin is angry because the EU has been placed into a (junior-) partnership with the US due to Washington's militarily reinforced position of power.

Cooperation in shaping the ,,New Order"

Berlin's political advisers of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP or foundation for science and policy), criticize the EU for disavowing any assertion of ,,geopolitical interests,"although for Europe the stakes in energy policy interests are more important than those of the USA: While the EU depends, for a large part of its energy supply, on the resources of the Middle East, it has fewer alternatives. Thus, the EU must have a ,,tremendous interest in access to the natural gas resources of the Gulf Region"especially since Russia's production of natural gas has been decreasing since 1990. Therefore the SWP recommends cooperation with the USA in the ,,new order"of the Gulf Region: ,,It would be sensible if the current crisis in the Gulf would be used to define European interests concerning its guaranteed supply and, if necessary, implement a consistent policy." 2)

The focus is especially on Iran which holds 15% of the world's oil reserves. Berlin's intention is to decrease German dependence on Russian energy reserves with the help of Iranian natural gas. However, shipping to Germany must still be organized which could create further conflicts. Iran's agreement for the construction of a gas pipeline to Armenia caused considerable disagreements between Moscow and Erewan which, until now, has been considered Russia's closest ally in the southern Caucasus. Russian specialists fear that the pipeline would be extended through Georgia and under the Black Sea to Europe and could diminish the sales of Russian natural gas in Europe. At the time of these disagreements over the pipeline, the foreign office engaged in intensive activities concerning the Caucasus, which could complicate the struggle for dominance in the southern Caucasus even further.

,,Exclusive Connection"with the Caucasus

In order to secure the ,,unhampered energy supply from the southern Caucasus and Central Asia,"the Caucasus is of ,,great geo-strategic significance"for German-Europe. Berlin views the EU as a good starting point to challenge the Russian claim to power further in this region: The SWP clarifies that the various activities (OSZE, Energiecharta agreement, membership of all states of the Caucasus in the Council of Europe, partnership and agreements of cooperation with the EU) would offer the basis for an ,,exclusive connection"of the Caucasus and the Caspian region with Europe. Advisers to Berlin's government demand that in this case a further involvement, which might include military intervention ( ,,contribution to conflict resolution") and a coordinated EU strategy for the region. ,,It should include a European contribution to conflict resolution and a connection with Europe below the threshold of EU membership as well as the design and the conversion of a transport infrastructure which would conform to European interests in securing [energy] supplies." 3)

,,Some Conflicts"

Generally, the energy policy advisers to Berlin's government assume that, in the future, Germany and the EU will have to assert themselves in a more intense competition for such strategic resources as oil and gas. They say that, in view of the potential increase of the EU's dependency on larger oil and gas imports from the Middle East and the Persian Golf, its own interests are already in ,,some conflict with American energy policies."Similar conflicts are also expected for the other supplying regions. According to present estimates, the amount extracted by Russia will not be sufficient to supply Asia and Europe with the necessary amounts of oil and gas simultaneously. Thus they predict that in the future the EU might compete with Asia and the USA for a ,,partnership"with Russia. In Central Asia, as well, an ,,intensified economic and political competition for power"especially with Japan, India, the US and eventually Russia over diminishing energy sources, cannot be precluded.

The rapidly increasing need for energy which is linked to the economic growth of Asia, especially China, is seen as a new threat to the German-European ,,secure supply."The Asian countries are - as is the EU - increasingly dependent on importing energy. The People's Republic of China (PRC) has already become the world's second largest consumer of energy next to the US. In particular, the Berlin strategists perceive a threat because China seeks access to energy resources especially in those countries in which western energy companies are not well represented (i.e. Iran, Iraq, Yemen or Sudan). That the PRC, as well as India, combine their energy cooperation with the supplying states with relations of a political, economic, military and military technology nature, provides them with increasing influence on these states and strengthens their position in the global playing field. 4)It is thought that this presents numerous challenges not only to the USA but also to Europe and that ,,geopolitical implications"have, so far, not been sufficiently considered.

War Games

Berlin urges that the EU should actively increase its political as well as its military power. 5)Concepts based almost exclusively on factors and requirements of the market economy, are not sufficient for the preservation of western energy security, thus: The ,,game of the market powers"will be dominated, even determined, considerably by political power factors in a political crisis or during military conflicts. The German advisers to the government therefore demand that Germany and the EU must prepare for military conflicts in order to secure future supplies of energy.

The ,,Bundesakademie fuer Sicherheitspolitik"(federal academy for security policy) which, as a center for strategy of German war policy and, like no other institution, symbolizes Berlin's purposeful return to imperialistic great power status, discusses in a current publication the ,,geopolitical effects"of the open ,,energy issue."It argues that this is of ,,greatest strategic significance"in striving for a joint foreign and military policy of the EU member states. This makes it ,,compellingly necessary that for future German and European energy policies increased foreign and security policy factors will have to be considered." 6)

1) see also BASF: Access to the largest energy reserves of the worldand Strategic Projects (II)
2) see also Background report: Berlin/Washington - division of labor against Iran?
3) Persischer Golf, Kaspisches Meer und Kaukasus - Entsteht eine Region vitalen europaeischen Interesses? SWP-Studie 2001/S 01, Januar 2001;
4) see also Background Report: Strategic Partnership and Containment
5) see also ,,Downfall or ascent to world power" and The End of ,,Civilian Power"
6) Frank Umbach: Internationale Energiesicherheit zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts, in: Bundesakademie fuer Sicherheitspolitik (BAKS, Hg.): Sicherheitspolitik in neuen Dimensionen. Kompendium-Ergaenzungsband I, Hamburg-Berlin-Bonn 2004, S. 345-270

Persischer Golf, Kaspisches Meer und Kaukasus - Entsteht eine Region vitalen europaeischen Interesses? SWP-Studie 2001/S 01, Januar 2001;
Frank Umbach: Zukuenftige Auswirkungen der energiepolitischen Abhaengigkeiten Chinas und Asiens vom Mittleren Osten und von Zentralasien, in: Erich Reiter (Hrsg.): Jahrbuch fuer internationale Sicherheitspolitik 2002, Bd. 2, Hamburg-Berlin-Bonn 2002, S. 191-220
Russlands Energiestrategie und die Energieversorgung Europas; SWP-Studie 2004/S 06, Maerz 2004;
Deutsch-russischer Energiegipfel. Konferenz in Moskau soll neue strategische Partnerschaft ausloten; Berliner Zeitung 30.06.2004
Frank Umbach: Internationale Energiesicherheit zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts, in: Bundesakademie fuer Sicherheitspolitik (BAKS, Hrsg.): Sicherheitspolitik in neuen Dimensionen. Kompendium-Ergaenzungsband I, Hamburg-Berlin-Bonn 2004, S. 345-270
,,Die Oelreserven sind nicht das Problem", sagt Friedemann Mueller; taz 07.08.2004
China auf der Suche nach sicherem Oel; taz 14.08.2004
Grossbritannien geht langsam das Oel aus. Auch beim Gas reichen Reserven bald nicht mehr zur Selbstversorgung; Frankfurter Rundschau 16.08.2004
Strategische Nachbarschaft. EU-Europa versus EU-Ost; GUS-Barometer September 2004;