Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Russia and Turkey come back to the gas table

Published in Analytical Articles
Rate this item
(4 votes)

By Najia Badykova

July 20th, 2016, The CACI Analyst

On June 27, Moscow announced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a personal letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing his “regret and sorrow” for the downing of a Russian plane last November and his wish to reestablish bilateral relations. This ended a seven-month standoff between Turkey and Russia that seriously threatened their political and economic relations. Moscow welcomed the apology. Both sides have strong reasons to resume and reinforce their relations. The rapprochement will allow a restoration of diplomatic relations, and remove trade sanctions and barriers to the development of a number of joint projects, including the planned Turkish Stream gas pipeline under the Black Sea. Yet while Ankara and Moscow may return to pipeline negotiations, the gas supply situation to Europe has changed since November. Moscow has made substantial progress pushing an alternative option – an expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline. 

 

 turkish-rapprBACKGROUND: With the demise of the South Stream plan in 2014, the announcement of the Turkish Stream pipeline to carry Russian gas to Turkey and beyond gave Turkey a great opportunity to become a key transit state for a substantial volume of Russian gas. At that time, Moscow was in a vulnerable position. It was desperately looking for alternative routes and partners to counter heavy Western sanctions and political and economic isolation. Moscow was willing to recognize Turkey as a transit state for its gas deliveries to the Southern part of Europe. Ankara had set its sights on Turk­ish Stream as a means to become a major gateway to the EU energy market. Yet the deal did not materialize as fast as Moscow wanted. Ankara and Moscow became mired in price negotiations and faced Brussels’ disapproval of the deal. While Moscow felt urgency to secure this project, Ankara took its time negotiating from a strong position, even declaring its desire to be not only a transit state, but also a part of the selling and buying process.

Last October, Russia’s Gazprom reached an agreement with a number of German and European companies on expanding the Nord Stream pipeline. Gazprom then decided to reduce the size of the pro­posed Turkish Stream pipeline by half, linking a reduction in the pipeline’s capacity – from 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year to 32 bcm – to the construction of North Stream 2; a significant shift in Moscow’s gas supply initiatives. This step was followed by the downing of the Russian fighter jet in November, putting the two countries seriously at odds. Moscow introduced a range of economic sanctions on Ankara and put the Turkish Stream project on hold. Germany saw the derailed Russia – Turkey relations as an opportunity to establish a transit state role for itself.

IMPLICATIONS: Germany, like Turkey, has fostered the idea of becoming a transit state for Russian gas to the EU energy market. The Germans have taken an aggressive stance towards Turkey as a potential partner in the Union’s gas industry. Since last November, Germany has persistently pushed the idea of expanding Nord Stream to carry Russian gas to the West European market.

In February, the German gas transmission system operators (TSOs) submitted the draft 2016 Gas Network Development Plan, which provides a comprehensive action plan for network development to ensure a natural gas supply providing energy security for Germany, to their country’s national regulatory authority, the Bundesnetzagentur. Yet in a German perspective, this action plan is central also in providing energy security for the entire EU. The draft plan proposed two principal options for discussion. The first option stipulates enlarged gas imports from the Caspian region via the EU-backed Southern Gas Corridor, bypassing Turkey through the White Stream pipeline under the Black Sea and then linking up with the Tesla pipeline. The second option requires the implementation of Nord Stream 2 as a key component. Both options exclude Turkey from Germany’ energy security scheme. In April, after extensive public consultations, the TSOs submitted a principal model case to the Bundesnetzagentur, building on the expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline and arguing that this option received support from a majority of market participants in Germany and Western Europe. Its implementation would amplify Germany’s status as a regional energy hub, as up to 80 percent of Russia’s total exports to Europe could, in theory, be directed via Germany. One of the arguments that supporters of this pipeline use is that this option, unlike the existing Ukraine transit route, will substantially help reduce transit costs. This has been seen as a key factor in the current bearish gas market.

Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic States have opposed the expansion of Nord Stream on the grounds that it would threaten EU energy security by increasing European dependence on Russian gas. However, the key impact of this project is that these states, especially Ukraine, will lose transit revenues. Brussels has previously expressed skepticism about Nord Stream 2 but it is now unclear whether it will block the project, given the amount of pressure that German and other West European companies can mobilize. At present, the European Commission has no official position on the project. As the crisis in Russia-Turkey relations is abating, Moscow can resume negotiations with Ankara on Turkish Stream, putting additional pleasure on Germany and other participants in Nord Stream to promote the project in Brussels.

Moscow has been careful to keep both options open. Gazprom earlier announced that neither South nor Turkish Stream pipelines have been taken off the table, hinting that even negotiations on South Stream could be resumed. Both projects target the countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. According to Gazprom, the gas supplies to these areas via Nord Stream are not competitive, therefore, either Turkish or South Stream pipeline can be implemented, especially given the fact that the degree of readiness is high for both these projects, both technologically and organizationally. Yet Brussels has opposed them as a threat to its Southern Gas Corridor scheme.

Ankara has sought some form of compromise and approval from Brussels in the past, but may now decide to ignore Brussels’ opinion. Erdogan’s recent statements have signaled his growing discontent with the EU over a number of political and economic issues. In turn, it appears that Moscow has become more pragmatic and careful in its efforts to balance among Nord and Turkish Stream partners. Recently, Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller said the construction of Turkish Stream depends on Brussels’ decision and can be resumed only if Gazprom receives a written approval of this project from the European Energy Commission. This indicates that Moscow will not shift gears and work with Turkey but rather respect EU rules and wait for official permission.

CONCLUSIONS: Russia-Turkey relations will gradually improve but are unlikely to return to the level that existed before the November 2015 incident anytime soon. Given that Russia remains determined to remove Ukraine from its delivery scheme and secure its shares in EU energy markets, Moscow will push ahead to secure two entry points to the EU’s gas market – from north and south. Yet Gazprom will likely be more persistent with the northern component. It seems that Germany, the EU’s leading member, is both better positioned and a more serious, stable and predictable partner for a major pipeline project. Germany may also provide substantial political support to Moscow in promoting its economic interests in Europe. It is unlikely that Moscow will consider Turkey as a transit state for a substantial volume of Russian gas deliveries to Europe. However, Moscow will still pursue either the Turkish or the South Stream pipelines to remove Ukraine from its gas politics and secure markets in the EU’s southern parts.

AUTHOR’S BIO: Najia Badykova is the head of Antares Strategy consulting.

Image Attribution: cdn.americanprogress.org, accessed on July 21, 2016

Read 6704 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 July 2016

Latest Issue

Visit also

silkroad

isdp

turkeyanalyst

Joint Center Publications

Resource Page "Resources on Terrorism and Radical Islamism in Central Asia", Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, April 11, 2017.

Silk Road Monograph Nicklas Norling, Party Problems and Factionalism in Soviet Uzbekistan: Evidence from the Communist Party Archives, March 2017.

Oped Svante E. Cornell, "Russia: An Enabler of Jihad?", W. Martens Center for European Studies, January 16, 2017.

Book Svante E. Cornell, ed., The International Politics of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict: The Original 'Frozen Conflict' and European Security, Palgrave, 2017. 

Article Svante E. Cornell, The fallacy of ‘compartmentalisation’: the West and Russia from Ukraine to Syria, European View, Volume 15, Issue 1, June 2016.

Silk Road Paper Shirin Akiner, Kyrgyzstan 2010: Conflict and Context, July 2016. 

Silk Road Paper John C. K. Daly, Rush to Judgment: Western Media and the 2005 Andijan ViolenceMay 2016.

Silk Road Paper Jeffry Hartman, The May 2005 Andijan Uprising: What We KnowMay 2016.

Silk Road Paper Johanna Popjanevski, Retribution and the Rule of Law: The Politics of Justice in Georgia, June 2015.

Book S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell, eds., ·Putin's Grand Strategy: The Eurasian Union and its Discontents, Joint Center Monograph, September 2014.

Book S. Frederick Starr, Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, Princeton University Press, September 2013.


 

 

The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

Newsletter

Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst

Newsletter