How realistic is the Turkish Stream’s realization?
ELNUR ISMAYILWith the normalization of Turkish-Russian political and economic relations, the Turkish Stream project is again on the negotiation table. It is important to make clear what kind of advantages and disadvantages the project has for Turkey’s energy security, and also how realistic its construction is under the current political circumstances. Regarding the probability of the realization of the project, it should be noted that neither Russia nor Turkey could decide on its construction. The realization of the project depends mostly on the EU’s decision.
There is no doubt that the project is a purely political pipeline. In 2014, Russian energy giant Gazprom and Turkish state-owned BOTAŞ signed a memorandum of understanding to construct the pipeline. Even though the start of the construction was scheduled for June 2015 the Russian and Turkish governments failed to reach an intergovernmental agreement. In response to Turkey shooting down a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft in late November 2015, the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project was suspended by Russia. The project fell under the Kremlin’s restrictive economic measures against Turkey. In December 2015, Turkey also officially terminated the gas pipeline project by arguing that Russia did not contravene with Ankara’s demands within the project. Since the normalization of relations, the probability of realizing the pipeline project remains on the agenda.
In light of Turkey’s aim to be an important energy transit country and hub in the region, any new pipeline project that passes through Turkey can be considered positively. The realization of the Turkish Stream will only strengthen Turkey’s position in becoming main energy route in the East-West energy corridor. Taking into account that the major natural gas consumption in Turkey is in the northwestern part of the country, the realization of the project could secure the supply of natural gas to the region. But at this stage an important question is how Turkey’s energy security would be affected from the realization of the Turkish Stream. It should be clear that the realization of the project would only increase Turkey’s dependence on Russian gas. Currently, Russia’s share in Turkey’s natural gas imports is around 55 percent.
Russia is not interested in completely canceling the Turkish Stream. Russian President Vladimir Putin also declared that the Kremlin had not definitively canceled the project, but Moscow needs a clear position from the European Commission. It is true that if the Turkish Stream project is realized, Gazprom’s position in Europe will get stronger. But neither the EU nor the European states are interested in becoming more dependent on Russian gas. It was one of the main reasons why the South Stream project was cancelled. So, probably for the same reason it would not be easier for the EU to allow the realization of the project. The EU is interested in realizing the Southern Gas Corridor.
Taking into account that one of the most important issues for any country is its energy security, it would be important for Turkey to diversify its energy supply, and so reduce its dependency on Russian energy imports. Potentially, Turkey has alternative possibilities and routes to import natural gas from other region countries. The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project, importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar and Israel’s natural gas are some of those alternatives.
*Elnur Ismayıl is a research fellow at Hazar Strategy Institute (HASEN) (firstname.lastname@example.org )