Turkey’s New Delight

Via Robert Amsterdam, an interesting look at Turkey’s role in the new emerging “Great Game”.  As the article notes:

“…Why would Turkey sign on to a massively expensive and redundant underwater pipeline that would eliminate the transit business at the lucrative but over-trafficked Bosporus Straits?  Because when it comes to Gazprom and Eni’s South Stream, it is very different to say you support it than it is to actually build it.  Nabucco is likely to work, and looks like it will find the gas to fill capacity – but not before Ankara does everything possible to milk both sides for the maximum concessions.

These editors at Zaman don’t quite get the issue right, but there is enough perspective here to get an idea of the Turkish mentality on Russian energy politics (resentful of the perceived mistreatment at the hands of Europe, Washington, and yes, Russia).  On the other hand, this remarkable independence makes Turkey one of the most interesting stages of the new great game.

Another dimension of this need to once again “contain” Russia is of course about energy and pipelines and this is where Turkey enters the picture. Washington has long been a strong supporter of alternative pipelines bringing Caspian and Central Asian energy resources to Western markets without going through Russian territory. The classic example is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (TBC) pipeline linking Azerbaijani oil with Europe through Georgia and Turkey. Last month, another major project to sideline Russia gained the green light for construction when the EU and Turkey signed the Nabucco project, the 3,300-kilometer-long gas pipeline from Central Asia to Europe.

But Putin’s visit to Turkey made a mockery of Nabucco’s very own raison d’être. Under the deal signed on Thursday, Turkey granted the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom the right to use its territorial waters in the Black Sea, under which the company wants to route a second South Stream pipeline to gas markets in Eastern and Southern Europe. Needless to say, this Russian pipeline, called the South Stream, will directly compete with Nabucco. The project needs Ankara’s consent because the planned route passes through Turkish territorial waters.

It was not clear that Turkey would agree to the project since South Stream bypassed Turkish territories. Turkey has been a regular customer of Russian gas through the Blue Stream pipeline and was believed to fear that some of that gas would instead be diverted to the EU with the South Stream. This is why Ankara needed to be convinced by Putin.

To buy Ankara’s support, Russia agreed to pay a high price. Russia will now help finance important projects for Turkey, including an oil pipeline from Samsun to Ceyhan and one or more nuclear power stations. Steps toward relying less on natural gas and oil by launching its own nuclear stations has been a Turkish strategic objective since 2003. In that sense, the deal with Russia is a long-cherished dream for Turkish politicians.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 5:17 am and is filed under Russia, Turkey.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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