The energy of the Ankara-Moscow axis - HATICE KARAHAN

The energy of the Ankara-Moscow axis

“Nothing can be obtained without power, and power can only be obtained through power.”

This sentence from “Crime and Punishment” provides the most comprehensive summary of the struggle of the age-old struggle that continues to the present day. A certain desire forms the substance of every partnership offered by the West to the East in current times. This also applies to the improving Russian-Turkish ties that made its mark this week…

Global public opinion is fluctuating between extremes on these close ties between the two countries, ranging from Russia’s desperation etc to Europe’s victory etc. While the international community agrees that it is a “win” situation for Turkey, the situation is viewed differently domestically… On the one hand, the developments are cited as a victory, while, on the other hand, a lot of criticism is being made. I am of the belief that these developments should be deciphered properly.

TOUGH TIMES FOR RUSSIA

Everyone knows that Russia is facing tough times. The economic sanctions that resulted from the straining of its ties to the West as a result of theA tensions over Ukraine put its economy in a corner. The Ruble’s drop in value set records and its reserves melted away. The economy, with its stagnant domestic market, will end the year with a -1 percent growth rate and expectations are that it will contract even further in 2015. It is facing problems both with regard to exports and with its budget; that have been exacerbated further with the steep drop in the price of oil…

Actually, the Ruble hitting rock bottom in a way compensated for the loss of revenue due to the price of oil. On the other hand, inflation and interest rates are on the rise… It is a disadvantage that it has a structure that is an example for the Dutch disease. The Russian economy’s focus on natural resources means its other sectors are lifeless. While this crisis could become an opportunity to eradicate this weakness in the medium term, it leaves it with no space to maneuver at the moment.

In such circumstances, negative impacts can only be reduced through new partnerships. The activity on the Moscow-Beijing axis in recent times is the clearest example of this. Russia, which is strengthening its ties with China, is simultaneously sending a message to the West that it will remain obdurate.

The degree to which sanctions have achieved their intended goals is being questioned at the moment. In this context, SWIFT came to the agenda as a radical move, but I am not of the opinion that this ban will have more far-reaching consequences for Russia than it had for Iran. Going further than that could mean a risk to the system.

It is clear that Russia is trying to stand strong. Establishing closer ties with us is also part of the strategy… It is clear for all to see. In that case, it brings us nothing to bring the reasons for this establishment of closer ties to the fore and to criticize them. What needs to be considered is how it will benefit us.

WILL OUR DEPENDENCE INCREASE?

The most ardent criticism with regard to the consequences of this cooperation has been the claims that we will become more dependent… Because the channeling of the canceled South Stream through Turkey is at the forefront.

Currently, we are supplied with gas through two pipelines from Russia. One is the Blue Stream, which comes to us directly via the Black Sea and the other is the Western Pipeline, which comes via Ukraine. We procured 14 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the former and 13 million cubic meters from the latter in 2013.

The plan is for the new pipeline to originate in Russkaya, which is the exit point for the Blue Stream and the shelved South Stream, and extend to the western part of our country through an underwater connection. Out of the expected annual output of 63 billion cubic meters, 14 billion cubic meters will be for us and the remaining 49 cubic meters will flow to Europe.

Yes, we should not just depend on Russia for our energy needs. That is why we are conducting studies on various partnerships, primarily on the basis of TANAP. The new pipeline, however, will ease the Ukrainian concern over our Russian-sourced energy while these studies are being conducted. It should be noted that the volume set aside for us in the proposed pipeline is almost equivalent to that of what we receive from the Western Pipeline that transits through Ukraine!

In other words, if the new pipeline is brought on line then the risk of disruption posed by the Western Pipeline will be eradicated. And that is vital for electricity generation in the Marmara region. This potential project can be better construed as a guarantee of current supplies rather than increased dependency when all this is taken into account…

WHAT WILL EUROPE HAVE TO SAY?

Let us now come to the issue of the new stream flowing to Europe via our border with Greece. The cancellation of the South Stream and Russia turning its face toward us occurred simultaneously. I think this move saved us all as Bulgaria, where the stream would have gone after crossing the Black Sea, was influenced by the European Union and started vacillating. Even if the route is changed, the intention is for this natural gas to eventually reach Europe.

By including Turkey, Russia can proceed with a more willing partner and it can also reduce the cost of the project by reaching land earlier. The EU will also be saved from the capriciousness of Bulgaria, its member. Even if individual countries are affected differently by this cancelation, the region as a whole is open to this resource. The EU needs Russia for its energy needs… This situation will remain unchanged until the efficient implementation of any planned alternatives!

I also do not place a lot of value on another criticism, which is that of Turkey distancing itself from the West. Yes, there will be rifts with Europe but eventually Turkey’s taking the stage when it comes to the issue of supply, which worries them, is a positive development. In the end, we will take on the crucial role of being trusted by both sides. This would represent both a strategic and economic victory for us…

While the EU and Russia found themselves on the verge of being put into a lose-lose position with regard to the South Stream, the inclusion of Turkey in the plan resulted in a three-way win-win-win situation emerging. I think this was a smart move.

OUR HAND WILL BE STRENGTHENED

It is crucial that we make the maximum use of our position as a result of us being a strong link that changes the shape of the chain. In this context, we will have a justified demand of a more attractive discount than the one proposed in the price of natural gas. When the impact of oil on the price of natural gas is taken into consideration, the discount needs to be larger. It seems like the strengthening partnership will make this happen…

Additionally, if we are supporting Russia’s energy exports, then it has to back our goods exports. It is known that our exports to that country are down. If Russia takes steps to trade on the basis of the Ruble and the Turkish Lira, provides tax discounts, and clears the path for our policies of expanding the variety of goods, then it will provide breathing space to our exporters.

While closer ties promise such positive developments, it should be recalled that the details have not been agreed upon yet. Both Europe and Russia will try to find other alternatives in the coming period. Everyone will try to increase their power by trying different combinations, and plans can always be changed.

The book “War and Peace” shows that the Russian-European rivalry is an old one and it also imparts an important lesson: Life is too long to call anything definite; always say perhaps.

We, too, should not lag behind in trying to evaluate any opportunities presented to us on the basis of our gains, but it is clear that we should bear in mind all eventualities, and progress on multiple fronts.

This can only be done by “combining strength with strength.” There is no other way. 

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