June 7, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, discusses the need to secure the Gulf of Guinea which he notes “for all its global importance as well as strategic significance for U.S. national interests…has seen comparatively few resources poured into maritime security, a deficit which only worsens when one considers the scale of the area in question and the magnitude of the challenges faced.”

Dr. Pham observes that the most recent Energy Information Administration data show that Nigeria has edged past Saudi Arabia to become the third largest supplier of petroleum to the United States and, when added together with Angola, now supplies more of America’s energy needs than Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates combined. Yet despite the need to secure oil production facilities, onshore and offshore, and the sea lanes over which the hydrocarbons are transported as well as the threats posed by piracy, criminal enterprises, and poaching in the Gulf of Guinea, “security in the subregion has traditionally been focused on onshore concerns.”

Consequently, Dr. Pham applauds the engagement of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and its naval component (NAVEUR), the Sixth Fleet, with regional partners in recent years, including last week’s announcement by Admiral Henry G. “Harry” Ulrich III that a U.S. Navy ship will deploy to the Gulf of Guinea for six months later this year as part of a multinational maritime-security-and-safety initiative that partners with eleven West African countries: “While the course ahead for the both the United States and for the countries of the Gulf of Guinea will not be without its meanderings—to say nothing of perils—at least now the passage appears to be, at long last, plotted.”

 To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s article, “Securing the New Strategic Gulf,” click here.