AYDIN – Turkey’s gas deals with Russia raise concerns of dependency

Turkey’s gas deals with Russia raise concerns of dependencyWith Turkey having agreed to buy from Russia an additional 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas and the construction of a new pipeline for that gas being on the agenda, analysts are concerned that such an agreement would dangerously increase Turkeyand#39s dependence on Russia in the field of energy.Turkey already depends on Russia for almost 60 percent of its gas.

andldquoThis is an agreement which unilaterally increases Turkeyand#39s dependence on Russia in the area of energy,andrdquo Necdet Pamir, head of the energy committee of the main opposition Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP), told Todayand#39s Zaman.At a press meeting the Turkish and Russian presidents held late on Monday Russiaand#39s Vladimir Putin said his country would increase natural gas exports to Turkey by 3 billion cubic meters as of next year, while granting Turkey a 6 percent discount on the price of that gas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan said to the press at the meeting in Ankara that Turkey currently imports half of its natural gas from Russia, and analysts estimate that the real figure is as high as 55-60 percent.For the transportation of the additional 3 billion cubic meters to Turkey, the capacity of the Blue Stream Pipeline under the Black Sea between the two countries will be increased.

If the agreement is followed through with, Turkey will be getting over 60 percent of its gas from Russia In 2013, Turkey imported 26.9 million cubic meters of gas from RussiaDuring Putinand#39s one-day visit, Gazprom, Russiaand#39s state-controlled gas export company, and the also state-owned Turkish Pipeline Corporation (BOTAI) signed a memorandum of understanding for building a new pipeline under the Black Sea to transport more Russian gas to Turkey.

According to Emre IIeri, a lecturer in the International Relations Department of YaIar University, the agreement is not a win-win situtation for Turkey.Noting that diversifying suppliers is a major point that countries should keep in mind in the area of energy security, IIeri drew attention to Turkeyand#39s dependence on Russia, saying, andldquoThis is an agreement which serves Russiaand#39s interests more.

andrdquoRussia is particularly interested in boosting its energy ties with Turkey, because the European Union is unwilling to go ahead with a multibillion dollar Russian gas pipeline project through Bulgaria for southern Europe, due to disagreement over the crisis in Ukraine. The EU also wants to diversify its sources of energy, as it has become too dependent on Russian gas.

Putin revealed in Ankara that the gas-rich country decided to drop the natural gas pipeline project that would have passed through Bulgaria With the new pipeline on the agenda, Russia is hoping to sell its gas to Europe through Turkey.Further negotiations will be made for the new pipeline, which will have a yearly capacity of 63 billion cubic meters.

Russia also offered Turkey to build a gas storage facility for it near Turkeyand#39s Greek borderAleksey Miller, the head of Gazprom, was among the Russian delegation and told reporters 14 billion cubic meters of gas would be reserved for Turkeyand#39s consumption, while the remaining nearly 50 billion cubic meters would be transported to the storage facility on the Greek borderTurkey has long desired to become an energy hub in the region, but analysts believe such an agreement would not serve Turkeyand#39s interests, as there is no guarantee that the EU would agree to buy Russian gas.For Pamir, who in addition to his leadership position on the committee is also a lecturer in international relations at Bilkent University, under the current circumstances a Russian gas facility on the Greek border does not seem logical.

Noting that the EU countries did not give the go-ahead to the gas project through Bulgaria, Pamir said: andldquoWhy should Europe, which did not agree to buy the Russian gas coming from Bulgaria, agree to buy gas through Greece? Is Greece [like Bulgaria] not a member of the EU?andrdquoTurkeyand#39s dependence on Russia in energy is not limited to natural gas, which makes both Pamir and IIeri even more worried about Turleyand#39s heavy dependency on Russia Turkeyand#39s northern neighbor will also be building Turkeyand#39s first nuclear power plant in the province of Mersinand#39s Akkuyu district as was previously agreed.Noting that Turkey also buys around 30 percent of the coal it imports from Russia, Pamir said: andldquoIt is not at all possible to talk about interdependency!andrdquoandlsquoMajor obstacle to independent foreign policyand#39Turkey and Russia have taken significant steps in the past few years to boost bilateral ties.

The fifth High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council between the two countries was held during Putinand#39s visit. The Russian president was accompanied by 10 ministers of the Russian Cabinet.

The two countries aim to increase bilateral trade volume to $100 billion by 2023.Both analysts are also concerned that such a heavy dependence on Russian energy may restrict Turkeyand#39s foreign policy options by forcing Turkey to heed Russiaand#39s position in a given foreign policy issue.

andldquoSuch a situation represents a serious obstacle for Turkey to conduct an independent foreign policy in the region,andrdquo IIeri told Todayand#39s Zaman, maintaining that the crises in Syria, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh are cases in point in this regard.andldquoThis dependency [on Russia] would definitely prevent Turkey from acting independently in foreign policy,andrdquo Pamir said.

Putin, who revealed that Turkey would receive a 6 percent discount on the price of the gas, also inferred that Russia could offer an even better deal if the two countries reach a more comprehensive cooperation on energy.For Hasan Selim zertem, an energy analyst at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), in the current picture, Turkey is unilaterally dependent on Russia as there is no customer at the moment for Russian gas to be transported via Turkey.

But zertem is still not all that pessimistic about the situation as he sees Russia as a reliable partner in energy.andldquoI feel the increase in Turkeyand#39s dependency [on Russia] will not pose any problems as Russia is not only a reliable partner but the price of gas will also be decreasing,andrdquo zertem told Todayand#39s Zaman.

Russia at odds with EUEU candidate Turkeyand#39s deepening energy ties with Russia are likely to raise eyebrows in Europe and the US, coming as Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine and as Europe is trying to lower its energy dependence on Russia, which supplies about 30 percent of its gas needs, half of that via Ukraine.andquotAs our cooperation develops and deepens, I think we will be ready for further price reductions,andquot Gazpromand#39s Miller told reporters in Ankara andquotAs we develop our joint projects .

the level of gas price for Turkey could reach the one Germany has today.andquotThe South Stream pipeline, which was to carry Russian gas to southern Europe via Bulgaria, had exposed cracks in EU strategy as Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Bulgaria, among others, saw it as a solution to the risk of a repeat of supply disruptions via Ukraine, while Brussels and Washington saw the project as entrenching Moscowand#39s energy stranglehold on Europe.

Yet its appeal has waned as economic growth has stalled and with Azerbaijani Caspian gas due to land in Italy from 2020.Carlos Pascual, who until earlier this year was the top energy diplomat at the US State Department, said there was no way the cancellation of the pipeline will negatively affect Europe.

andquotOne could actually argue that in the end this will save European consumers money by eliminating an unnecessary high-cost pipeline that would not have added any additional new supply,andquot he said.Pascual said Gazpromand#39s action could show the effects of US and EU sanctions imposed on Russia for its aggression toward Ukraine.

andquotAt a point in time when capital was unlimited, perhaps Russia would not have taken this action,andquot he said.A Gazprom analyst agreed the sanctions may have been a factor andquotBy invading Crimea, Putin has created a major barrier for the South Stream project,andquot said Mikhail Korchemkin with East European Gas Analysis.

andquotazprom was unable to raise money for the projectandquot after the sanctions went into place, he said.Russia is already Turkeyand#39s main energy supplier while Turkey is Russiaand#39s second-largest trading partner after Germany.

Those economic interests have outweighed the deep differences over Ukraine and especially Syriaand#39s nearly four-year-long civil warWhile Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkeyand#39s ErdoIan has become his most vocal critic, lambasting the UN Security Council, and Russia in particular, for stalling on an international response to the warandquotPresident [Putin] has a different assessment from us,andquot ErdoIan told their joint news conference. andquotWe agree a solution is needed, but we differ on the means.

andquot.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman