Fragile Russia-Turkey energy ties come into the open
The spillover from a serious military confrontation between Russia and Turkey was exposed immediately, almost within hours. The first, entirely expected impact was seen in the field of energy as Russia’s Gazprom announced that it would cut the capacity of the planned Turkish Stream pipeline, which will carry gas from Russia to Europe through Turkey and Greece, by half.
After many comments about the “just around the corner” construction works for the pipeline, Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said the company now planned to supply up to 32 billion cubic meters (bcm) gas, rather than 63 bcm, via Turkish Stream “because it also plans to expand the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs on the bed of the Baltic Sea to Germany.”
Gazprom had originally planned to supply Europe with a total of 63 bcm by 2020 via the planned pipeline, with the first line of 15.75 bcm designed for Turkey and the rest flowing to Greece before going onwards to Europe.
Something should be underlined here: The project, which was suddenly decided by the strongmen of the two countries so as to create a playing field across Europe’s energy battlefield, could disappear within a single night, as there are very few people involved in the decision-making processes on such issues in Russia and Turkey right now.
Although what really happened between Russian and Turkish officials might be a big unknown to us, we can at least draw a quick timeline of incidents since last December.
Turkish officials rarely said something about the project since Dec. 1, 2014, when Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the scrapping of the South Stream for a new pipeline through Turkey, now dubbed the Turkish Stream, while Gazprom representatives made many comments about the future of the pipeline.
Gazprom said last May that gas deliveries through the Turkish Stream pipeline would start in December next year. Several Turkish officials confirmed this later, pending changes. Then, we all started to hear more controversial comments from both sides about the project in comparison to previously.
There are two differing points here: Turkish officials have said both countries froze their talks over the proposed project due to a disagreement over a gas price discount. The Turkish side said Turkey had hiked the gas price discount sought from Russia to 10.25 percent from its initial level of 6 percent to be discussed later, but Russia made the gas discount talks a prerequisite of the Turkish Stream project.
The Russian side, however, insisted that the talks have been frozen due to political uncertainties in Turkey just ahead of snap polls in November, with the talks set to be resumed just after a new cabinet is established in the country to start construction by 2016.
According to Russia’s media outlets, any Gazprom representatives will not talk about the project until November when the elections will be held in Turkey.
This, however, suddenly changed yesterday. Is it surprising to anyone? Most probably not.
Both sides will speed up the project as soon as the military confrontation ends. This, however, will not change the fact that what happens on such projects in Russia and Turkey will be unknown for both side’s peoples.
And anything may happen suddenly on them as well, irrespective of how ambitious the previous energy security promises were.