Christian Bueger

Meetings in Berlin: The Baltic Sea, the age of infrastructure and the future of maritime security

Over the course of a week I participated in a series of meetings in Berlin. The first was an authors meeting of a forthcoming report on the future of maritime security. The report will lay out in detail what challenges the global governance of maritime security faces and which institutions might respond to these.

The second was writing workshop of the Ocean Infrastructure Research Group. We conducted a thorough review of the chapters of our co-authored book titles Global Ocean Politics in the Age of Infrastructure.

Finally, I attended a workshop organized by the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy that focused on the Baltic Sea.

Inaugural meeting of new UTOPIC research group

On 25th and 26th of January I had the pleasure to attend the inaugural workshop of the new research group “Understanding the Transformations of world politics: Ordering Principles and Infrastructures of Communication” (UTOPIC).

The group is hosted by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) at the University of Bielefeld and is a collaboration between scholars based in sociology, history and international relations. Led by Mathias Albert, Heidi Tworek, and Tobias Werron, the group comprises of eight scholars.

Together we will explore how world politics is shaped by the rise and fall of ordering principles and the evolution of infrastructures of communication. In offering new theorizing of global orders, UTOPIC will challenge received notions of a liberal world order, and reveal the complexity and multiplicity of world politics across time.

I will be feeding core insights of our work on ocean infrastructures into the group’s discussion.

How does NATO contribute to critical maritime infrastructure protection?

Critical maritime infrastructure protection (CMIP) is an increasingly important component of maritime security. Following up our discussion of the principles and challenges of CMIP, published with Marine Policy last year, in a new short article I discuss the role of NATO.

The article published with the Institute for Maritime Strategy’s online journal MOC , reviews the range of activities that NATO has developed, including a new coordination cell, a new center and a digital initiative to improve maritime domain awareness. This provides solid foundations for the work of the organization in CMIP. Yet, it raises the question of how this work relates to other initiatives launched in regional seas, such as the North Sea, given that the role of military is limited.

Are the pirates of Somalia back in business?

In a new commentary published with SafeSeas I reflect on the current wave of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia. The pirates have shown considerable activity over the past weeks, and use the current Red Sea crisis as a window of opportunity. Contrary to optimistic voices that suggest that the current counter-piracy structures can cope with this, I take a more critical stance, and argue that a strong signal is required to prevent further escalation.

New short article on the spatial dimensions of maritime security

In a new article, I argue that maritime security today concerns a least six spatial dimensions: surface, airspace, low orbit, deep sea, seabed and cyber.

While much of our attention goes to the surface, maritime security strategy needs to broaden the scope. In particular the seabed requires more strategic thinking considering its hosts major infrastructures. The article is published by the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy and available in Korean and English.

Navies and the blue economy: Strategic thinking at Indian Ocean Naval Symposium

In December 2023 I had the pleasure to participate in the 8th Indian Ocean Naval Symposium organized by the Thai Navy.

The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) is one of the most important maritime security arrangement in the region. It is the only format that brings security actors from south east Asia, the bay of Bengal and the western Indian Ocean together to discuss security at sea. It also includes important maritime states, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia as observers.

Delegates at 8th IONS, Bangkok, 12.2023
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Seabed security: Naval Forum in Spain

The seabed is rapidly becoming a new space of concern in security politics. In Europe, largely triggered by the 2022 sabotage of he Nord Stream pipelines, but also investments by Russia in subsea capabilities, NATO countries are reevaluating their dependency on subsea infrastructures such as pipelines and data and electricity cables.

As part of their EU presidency, the Spanish Navy hosted a Forum focused on the issue on November, 16th at naval headquarters in Madrid. Titled the “Seabed, a new area of interest and dispute”, 150 participants, including high level representatives from all major European navies, discussed the importance of the seabed, and different responses.

The first panel focused on the strategic picture, deep seabed mining and subsea data cables. In the second panels, the navies of Spain, Italy and France provided an overview of the defense and coordination projects they are currently developing. The French representative showed how the navy is implementing its dedicated seabed strategy, while Italy discussed how their response is structured by technological innovation, maritime stakeholder communities, a legal review and the creation of a new coordination center.

In my contribution to panel 1, I firstly argued for the need to think maritime security in dimensional terms. I then demonstrated how substantively our dependency on the seabed has been accelerating in the past two decades, a trend that will continue with the green energy transition is unfolding. Two make that point, I provided a review of how the seabed has been used throughout history. I then investigated the hypothetical landscape of threats based on our recent article on the issue. I ended in an evaluation of current European responses and its challenges.

Source: Critical Maritime Infrastructure Protection: What’s the trouble?, Marine Policy, 155: 105772, 2023 (with Tobias Liebetrau).

The main responses are led by NATO and the EU. NATO has developed a coordination cell in its headquarters which organizes a stakeholder network described as ‘community of trust’. At NATO Maritime Command a center for critical infrastructure protection is being developed which will operate in a similar way as the NATO Shipping Center to enhance information sharing and coordination with industry.

The EU is currently evaluating the vulnerability of subsea infrastructures, and has recently launched its EU Maritime Security Strategy that entails significant plans for infrastructure protection. A key actor driving the agenda is the European Defense Agency.

More efforts will be needed, however, in improving maritime domain awareness and subsea awareness, reliable information sharing and standards for the self-protection by the industry.

Debating the future of maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean

What’s the state of progress and arising challenges for maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean? From 14.-16.11. I had the pleasure to follow large parts of a ministerial conference addressing this issue in Mauritius online. I chaired one session on the first day and provided comments in the concluding sessions.

Below is the write up of my intervention:

Towards holistic maritime security: Finetuning the maritime security system in the Western Indian Ocean

Maritime security solutions in the Western Indian Ocean have made significant progress. A decade after the crisis caused by piracy attacks in the region, a sustainable and well-functioning maritime security structure has been built.

While often referred to as a maritime security ‘architecture’, this term seems no longer appropriate. An architecture is a metaphor that points to a project in planning and construction. Maritime security has progressed in the region to a degree, that it is now better to refer to a ‘system’ – a system that needs to be finetuned and improved, but which has been well established.

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