DELPHI, Greece – The United States and NATO will need to have a military presence in the East Mediterranean to protect the energy resources in the region, retired US General Charles F. Wald told New Europe.
“From a military perspective, the United States, we realise the amount of money it costs to have our military forward deployed and modern and operational in areas like the Persian Gulf or now a little bit more into the Red Sea and always the Med,” Wald, who is a senior security advisor to Deloitte Services, told New Europe in an interview on the sidelines of the Delphi Economic Forum.
“With respect to the Persian Gulf, it used to be 100 percent energy other than the Israeli issue and we could have done that from the Med and then, particularly up until the first Gulf war and even the second Gulf war to a certain extent, but terrorism and extremism has crept in as another strategic reason to be there. But for a while, the only reason the US military was in the Persian Gulf was oil,” said Wald, who retired from the US Air Force as four star general after serving over 35 years in the US military.
Wald said he also looked at Russia shutting off gas to Ukraine a few years ago. “In fact what they did was they shut off gas to Europe because the pipeline went through Ukraine and it demonstrated the vulnerabilities of the European continent to energy dependence on somebody like Russia. And the fickle nature of the fact that it becomes a geopolitical issue when you cut the energy off,” Wald said, arguing that the military ought to have a role in securing the pipelines and energy resources. “But NATO didn’t want to do that,” he said, adding the alliance thought, “It was a step too far”.
Energy and economy are national security issues of any country, he said. “Look at Greece, what happened with the economics over the past few years. Look at what happened to the nation. So if your economy is weak either of poor economic policy or poor leadership but also because of threats of disruption to the economy due to energy, for example, that’s a national security issue,” he said, adding that the situations in Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon are all connected and the stability of the region is critical.
“Hopefully production of energy out of Iraq eventually will help ease the cost of energy globally. Hopefully the development of the East Med for Greece, Israel, Egypt and others will also help them with their economic stability,” he said.
When he was in Europe from 2001 to 2006, the US didn’t have any permanently stationed navy in the Mediterranean. “We’re going to need that because the Med is becoming more of a strategic issue,” he said, adding that NATO has more presence now because of Russia’s involvement.
Wald said NATO needs to examine from a geo-strategic standpoint, “where they want to have their forces. “Is it going to be willy-nilly and responsive or is it going to be strategic and preventive. So the gas resources in the East Med become a major strategic asset that needs to be protected,” he said.
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