How can we protect our vital infrastructure in the North Sea? Will fences and pushbacks become EU policy? What is the People’s Liberation Army capable of today? And what will likely be its capabilities by 2035?
The High Value of the North Sea
As the size, diversity and importance of sea-based assets and activities increase, whether it’s windmills, undersea cables or offshore rigs , so do the entry points for criminal and terrorist actions, and for disturbances and attacks by state actors. As ‘sea’ becomes more like ‘land’, guaranteeing the security of structures and processes in the North Sea warrants more attention, and could potentially necessitate new approaches, argue Frank Bekkers, Joris Teer, Dorith Kool, Lucia van Geuns, Patrick Bolder, Irina Patrahau and Max Sarel in our latest report, The High Value of the North Sea.
- On behalf of HCSS, Frank Bekkers handed out the first copies of the new report this week to Admiral René Tas, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and Jan van Zanten, Director of the Netherlands Coastguard.
- In the coming years, more and more vital infrastructure will be moved to the North Sea. But how can we secure this – cables, wind turbines, etc – in an area (outside the 12-mile zone) where this is actually not allowed? HCSS strategic analyst Joris Teer discusses the issue in the new episode of De Strateeg on BNR Nieuwsradio, together with Colonel Ivo Moerman (Royal Navy) and Jan van Zanten (Director of the Netherlands Coastguard).
- “This is a matter of national security,” Frank Bekkers commented on EenVandaag television. “We’re building vital infrastructure further and further out at sea, but we have neglected to think about their security. How are we going to defend our vital interests in the North Sea?” Members of Parliament Jeroen van Wijngaarden (VVD) and Derk Boswijk (CDA) respond as well, demanding action from the government.
- Value creation in the North Sea is growing rapidly, through data connections and energy production, for instance. But attention to security of these vital assets is lacking, offering opportunities for criminals, terrorists and espionage, Frank Bekkers argues in an op-ed for Financieele Dagblad.
- Newspaper Algemeen Dagblad also reported on the HCSS North Sea Report, writing that the security of Dutch wind farms in the North Sea is inadequate. They are vulnerable to sabotage, which is troubling, since we are increasingly dependent on power from these turbines.
- Windturbines, internet cables: the North Sea is increasingly being used for our vital infrastructure, but this also makes the Netherlands more vulnerable to cyber attacks, sabotage and espionage, writes the Friesch Dagblad, something the government should take more seriously.
- The Navy and the Coast Guard should be given a greater role in the North Sea and become part of a North Sea Authority, reports the Noordhollands Dagblad about our study. This new national organization, based in Den Helder, will then be responsible for the security of the North Sea, where more and more economic activity is being developed.
China’s Military Rise
China is following a typical trajectory for rising great powers in terms of its increasing willingness and ability to project power outside its region. What is the People’s Liberation Army capable of today and what will likely be its capabilities by 2035? The new HCSS report China’s Military Rise and the Implications for European Security makes a broad assessment of China’s military modernization and the implications for the security of European states. Authors Joris Teer, Tim Sweijs, Paul van Hooft, Lotje Boswinkel, Juliëtte Eijkelkamp and Jack Thompson provide 20+ policy recommendations to deal with China’s military rise both within and beyond the defense realm.
COP26, Climate and Energy
Climate Security is starting to be seen as a global security priority. To enhance awareness and understanding, HCSS organized an online Climate Security Game in parallel with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, with a Keynote speech by Tom Middendorp, former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands, Strategic Advisor to HCSS and Chairman of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). Middendorp describes climate change as “the biggest game changer of this century, also for security”, and provides some concrete options for the security sector to take action.
Norway announced in September that it would increase gas production for Europe by 2 percent. “With the current high gas prices, this increased export is very interesting for the Norwegians,” HCSS energy expert Jilles van den Beukel explains in Algemeen Dagblad: oil and gas extraction in Norway is less controversial than in the Netherlands, in part because proceeds are put into a fund for the future.
The energy transition is starting to hit the agricultural sector hard, Rob de Wijk writes in his column for Nieuwe Oogst. Hydrogen gas for instance, is essential for the production of industrial ammonia, which is an indispensable ingredient for fertilizers. Without it, the agricultural sector could collapse. Problem: Hydrogen gas production requires a lot of gas and some coal. The annual production of 90 million tons of hydrogen gas produces the CO2 emissions of a country like Germany.
“If Nordstream 2 gets up to speed in the short term, the gas price may drop substantially, depending on how severe the winter will be,” Jilles van den Beukel commented on RTL Nieuws. “It is possible that due to social unrest about the high gas price, the German regulator will temporarily agree to transport gas through Nordstream 2.”
Pushbacks and Migrants as Weapons
Moral crisis on the border: on their latest BNR podcast, Boekestijn & De Wijk talk about pushbacks, fences and the use of migrants as a weapon to undermine the EU, with their guest this week, MEP Thijs Reuten.
Belarusian dictator Lukashenko uses migrants to destabilize the EU. The call for border fences is increasing. Rob de Wijk analyzes the situation in talkshow M on NPO1: “These are the external borders of the European Union, it is possible to build barriers there.”
Lukashenko is using migrants as weapons, Rob de Wijk explained on EenVandaag about the situation at the Polish border: it’s inevitable that building fences and pushing back refugees (even if this is officially not allowed) will become part of European policy.
Geopolitics and International Relations
On November 4, Rob de Wijk took part in the third Mars and Mercury symposium, ‘Battle for Europe <> Battlefield Europe’, where he spoke about the role of Europe in the geopolitical competition between the US and China.
HCSS senior strategic analyst Laura Birkman attended the seminar “Strengthening bilateral cooperation between Iraq and Netherlands in the fields of Higher Education & Scientific Research”, jointly with representatives from 6 Iraqi Universities and their partner Dutch Institutions.
Many European leaders are under the impression that transatlantic relations have normalized under Biden, Rob de Wijk writes in his weekly column for Trouw. But for Biden it is “America First” as well, and he will ignore the Europeans if they do not comply with his agenda.
This week HCSS senior strategic analyst Paul van Hooft spoke about Open Strategic Autonomy before the committee for Foreign Affairs of the Dutch House of Representatives.
In his new book ‘De Slag om Europa’, Rob De Wijk outlines the future of Europe in a changing geopolitical landscape. In doing so, he remains remarkably optimistic: Rob argues that the EU has carved out a new and unique power – a regulatory power – in geopolitics, he explains in this short interview with The Young Diplomat.
HCSS is pleased to announce Jeff Amrish Ritoe will be joining us as our new Subject Matter Expert. An energy professional with over 15 years of experience in negotiating commercial agreements, acquisitions and divestments in the energy industry, he will be an excellent addition to our team as Strategic Advisor Energy & Raw Materials.