Pipeline Politics (Rep. Alcee Hastings)

Yesterday, Russia's state-owned energy monopoly, Gazprom, bought a majority stake in British Petroleum's Siberian gas field, further consolidating its hold on the development of natural gas resources. While no one questions Russia's right to develop its own energy resources, it is critical that we do question Russia's role as a reliable energy supplier.

I held a hearing yesterday in my capacity as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), entitled, "Pipeline Politics: Achieving Energy Security in the OSCE Region." The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) includes participating states such as Russia, important transit countries such as Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the consumer countries of the European Union. Six months ago, Russia halted natural gas supplies to Belarus for three days, creating a negative ripple effect on shipments to western Europe. This was not the first time Russia flexed its energy muscles -- as Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia and other countries can attest. These disruptions caused not only a negative economic impact throughout the supply stream, but also caused political turmoil.

As Russia consolidates its market share in the development and transit of natural gas, we may see even greater economic and political instability as European countries increase their energy consumption. The lack of transparency in energy deals and blatant political moves mean less predictability in the market. Just this past week, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, stated that Russia has a major stake in creating "an infrastructure of trust" in the global and regional economies, including the energy sector. That would be a welcome development, but there is much that Russia must do to counteract the current state of mistrust.

Russia is a good example of how the issue of energy security spans the security, economic and environmental, and human dimensions of the Helsinki process. I believe that we can find the solution to achieving energy security by taking a comprehensive approach that incorporates solutions from each of these dimensions. Yesterday’s hearing focused on the geostrategic, or traditional security, aspects of energy security. In the coming months, I plan to hold additional hearings that will highlight areas where the Commission, the U.S. Government and the OSCE can take effective action. Watch for future hearing announcements at the Commission's website. I look forward to seeing you there.