Kai Eide is a keynote speaker at the Energy Conference in Kristiansand on 13 February.

“Energy can be a powerful weapon in conflicts between nations,” says Kai Eide, a former top diplomat, NATO Ambassador and UN Envoy to the Balkans and Afghanistan.

As a keynote speaker at the Energy Conference in Kristiansand on 13 February, Eide will address how energy, digitization and new technology can be used as powerful weapons in conflicts. The weaponizing of everything, is the title of his talk.

“Energy and digital networks drive our society. If access to energy and critical infrastructure is paralyzed, our societies will stop functioning. It’s that simple. We see many examples of how energy and digital tools can be used as weapons. The war in Ukraine is one such example,” says Eide.

Oil and gas deliveries from Russia made Europe depend on Russian energy. Following the invasion of Ukraine, there was an urgent need to reduce and ultimately terminate this dependence. Europe managed the transition remarkably well. But it contributed to rising inflation and significant reduction of economic growth. The next challenge could be to slow down the supply of enriched uranium from Russia to European and Western nuclear power plants.

“Russia accounts for 30 percent of the world production of enriched uranium. This fuels nuclear power plants which produce electricity to many European countries. If supply of uranium stops, Europe would face a serious problem,” says Eide.

Eide has 40 years of experience from international service, including conflict zones. He is concerned by the global security situation, which he believes is characterized by an aggressive Russia that isolates itself from the Western world, and an increasing rivalry between the great powers China and the United States.

“We live in a time where dialogue and cooperation between the great powers are almost non-existent. When the dialogue stops, tension and the risk of a serious conflicts increase. As an energy nation we are vulnerable,” says Eide.

He points out that people tend to focus too one-sidedly on the positive aspects of technological development, with digital networks that link the world together and artificial intelligence that simplifies work operations and makes everyday life easier.

“We must remember that all these tools can also be used as weapons to harm us. Cyber-attacks become more advanced and can disrupt critical infrastructure, energy grids, industrial production, and healthcare services. Autonomous weapons represent new challenges.”

According to Eide, the introduction of artificial intelligence can also create problems.

“Many scientists argue that artificial intelligence may increase the risk of nuclear weapons being used in a future conflict. Machines with artificial intelligence can misinterpret situations and give wrong signals that weaken the decision-making basis of military and political leaders. The result can be catastrophic,” says Eide.

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