Can Russia change the energy equation? - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Can Russia change the energy equation?

The "Insight Turkey Energy Security Panel" organized by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) was held in Ankara yesterday. The main topic of the panel which had as speakers Okan Müderrisoğlu from Sabah newspaper, Associate Professor Mert Bilgin from Istanbul Medipol University and myself, was how the energy equation would be shaped after Russia's intervention in Syria.

Speaking about energy at a time when the political agenda is focused on the elections, is important in terms of keeping Turkey's energy policies from falling behind the agenda. Because the steps to be taken in the energy today will determine the political and economic power of the country in the future. That's why we cannot consider the energy issue as only an issue of today.

THE BRIDGE OF OPPORTUNITIES AND RISKS

But energy is an area where both the opportunities and risks go hand-in-hand both for the countries that have energy and those that need it.

As the demand for energy increases in developing countries like Turkey to continue the economic growth process, countries like Russia, Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan which have rich energy resources want to guarantee the continuation of the revenues they generate from energy.

Naturally, the difference of political opinion isn't reflected much on the economic cooperation of the countries, especially when it is about energy. But the steps Russia took in Ukraine and Syria with over confidence in its energy power cast a shadow of political plans on energy agreements.

The latest discussion is whether Russia's support to the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, its violation of Turkey's airspace and even Assad's invite to Russia would cause trouble in energy.

It appears that Russia's desire to intervene Syria and even become a player there will continue. In other words, Russia will try to expand its current energy reserve by establishing superiority in Syria as well.

On the other hand, Turkey didn't let the cyclical problems to shape its economic relations particularly on energy with Russia in the past. But this time Russia is bolder and more ambitious. That's why Turkey can face a problem that differs greatly from that in the past.

One of the headlines of particular focus in the panel was what kind of policy Turkey will follow in the event Russia succeeds in gaining the energy power it wants in Syria and finally in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Hence, missing opportunities while trying to manage risks may keep Turkey – which could be an important variant for the global energy equation in the short term – away from the equation.

THE COST OF THIS REGION IS HIGH

We know that, as the country we have highly paid the cost of this region where each country including Turkey has a determined an agenda of its own.

For example, by carrying out an “open door” policy for the people who have been fleeing the tyranny of Assad in Syria, it paid a cost both materially and spiritually.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the political and economic power war in this region will continue. The country in whose favor this power war will develop is in direct correlation with which country will be indispensable in the energy equation.

Therefore, as managing the cyclical conditions well has been gaining time for Turkey at the last point to complete Turkey's deficiencies in the energy field, at the same time it will strengthen Turkey's place in the energy equation that has been shaped as of today.

That's why Turkey, which has been one of the main players in an energy project as big as the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP), for the first time getting so close to the nuclear plant, establishing the Energy Exchange, progressing step-by-step to becoming an energy hub with the efforts to be included in the Southern Gas Corridor of Iran and Turkmenistan, should continue its determination in energy policies.

Otherwise, a conjunctural change in Turkey's energy policies could lead to greater risks in the near future.

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