Energy Diplomacy of Turkey: Cooperation with East and West

By Assistant Prof. Goknur Akcadag* - The multi-dimensional strategies of Turkey, firmly avoiding to confront with both Western and Eastern countries, especially reveals itself in the energy policies.  Assessing all the different aspects one may suggest that Turkey takes steps among the USA, Russia and EU within a balanced policy looking after her own interests as the energy policies builds up in parallel to the political approaches in the short and long run determining the power balance thus the signed agreements are of international importance politically.
On the other hand it is not likely to comprehend just through the opinions published in the press   what the reactions from the USA would be in the future for her own plans in the region against the policies of Turkey, which Turkey considers they are the balanced ones. Turkey rejoins against the negative attitudes on her EU membership by her energy policies while the USA and Russia take steps to protect their interests over the countries they influence. The establishment of the EU was technically dependent on the union of coal and steel.

The course in the coming days will prove whether the energy basin and transit route between the East and West would create petrol-natural gas cooperation as much as their interests overlap. Here it is the important that how much of this cash flow would be controlled by Turkey not how much of the petrol and natural gas flowing through this pipe line would be consumed by her. The USA does not need the Middle Eastern petrol directly. Even though America provides most of her petrol need from the Southern American countries the main reason behind her interest for the petrol drilled in this region is that she holds the reins of cash flow using petrol as a tool. It would be reasonable to evaluate that Turkey might be a power to control the cash flow that would be resulted from natural gas.

One may suggest that Turkey aims to recover some missed chances during the course of history in the coming years reaching in the Middle East and later to the axis of Afghanistan and Pakistan over Iran and Caucasia, energy and commerce arenas of the Central Asia and heading towards the new Silk Road destination. Several experts claims, considering the Mediterranean-Middle East-Europe, Turkey and the USA and Turkey-Russia relations in the light of Braudel’s opinions, that Turkey in 2010 must adopt a policy to recover missed chances, attempt for new acquisitions, protect her own interests and build up a stronger negotiation base.

Ed Crooks in his article published in Financial Times says “we can accuse of none of the country in the Russia’s influence sphere as they demand that their options remain open” and points out that Turkey uses her strong leverage against Europe. “Only partnership not friendship prevails when vital interests matter”. In this article it is stressed that Turkey, before which was laid obstacles not to be a member of the EU, takes steps implementing different initiatives in order to gain strength. On the other hand in an article, written by Tarık Ramazan of the Islamic Research Institute of Oxford University, difficulties Turkey faces during the membership procedure is assessed. It reads out “Turkey is part of Europe.

The thing holds her at bay from Europe is fear”. It will be seen whether the idea ‘cowards die many times before their deaths’ is true or not and what energy bids and a Turkey with stronger position will change. The Turkey’s plan for future is based on being a transit country in the energy network as it imports the 92 per cent of petrol and 97 of natural gas.

Another remarkable comment published in the magazine “The Middle East” in England in August-September 2009 cover. In the article by Mustafa Karkouti headlined “What Turkey Pursues?” he claims that Turkey is about noticing her potential to be a newly discovered regional power not only in the Middle East but also both in Caucasia and the Balkans for the first time.

He emphasizes that Turkey gets an open support from the USA for her new foreign policy, which makes the issue more interesting. Another comment that stressed the power of Turkey in the past came from Yevgeni Satanovski, the President of Russia Middle Eastern Institute. His article published in Izvestia was headlined “Return of Babıali”. (Moscow, 21.1.2010). The author points to positive and impartial approach of Turkey, taking her own interests into consideration in a pragmatic way, for the Russia’s regional including conflicts in
Chechnya, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia.

Expert Ian Lesser of German Marshall Fund says about the issue: “Turkey has transformed her ideas dates back to the Ottoman era about Russia into a remarkably interesting relations that have considerable trade and energy features. Besides this causes long-termed questions to be asked for the tough choices and pressures Turkey may face in case the relations of West to Russia may transform into more competitive structure” (Risks and Advantages of Proposal Turkey Offered Russia, 12/01, Reuters).

Wolfango Piccoli of Eurasia says about the issue: “Until one year ago the close relations between Turkey and Russia had been worrisome for the West. But in the end Europe could find out that Turkey imports the 65 per cent of gas she needs from Russia”. Russia is for now keeping silent towards Armenia-Turkey rapprochement as she has some economic interests (for example common petroleum and natural gas projects with Turkey and Azerbaijan and partnerships in military and technical fields) because Russia has proved her own talent to break the agreements scores of times at a critical step. She is able to keep the parties dependent on her instigating the conflict whenever she likes thus creating a favorable situation for herself. It is difficult to find out how energy policies and regional conflicts are accommodated.

It is seen in the background that Ashkhabad and Baku extends their energy relations with other neighboring countries. The Devletabad-Serahs-Hangeran natural gas pipeline was opened during the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to Turkmenistan. Iran will buy 8-20 billion cubic meter natural gas per year from Turkmenistan. The Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China natural gas pipeline, whose projected capacity is 60 billion cubic meter, started to operate on December, 2008. The Russian President Vladimir Putin explained that there was no any disapproval against flowing of the Turkmen natural gas into China in addition to Russia since a new energy network had been established in the Caspian Region. The details of such system have been cleared more after Azerbaijan wended towards Iran.

Pipeline does not only mean natural gas. Pipeline creates long-run mutual dependency between countries. Therefore it manifests itself definitely in cooperation as well as in the geopolitical positions of the countries. So Alexandros Petersen, the Director of the Eurasia Energy Centre of Atlantic Council, maintains that some events having symbolic importance exist. “West is losing its initiative to set up alternative destinations for the Caspian Sea natural gas reserves”. Establishment a multi-axial policy is accompanied by a backstage diplomacy having the intrigue character. As concluded by John Robertson, an American expert on energy security, Turkey assured the transition of Turkmen natural gas profitless over Azerbaijan by fixing her own price as it was foreseen in the Nabucco Project.

Moreover Turkey, which attempted to bypass it, tries to acquire the Turkmen natural gas passing through Iran and ship it to Europe. Consequently implementing the “Zurich Scenario” foreseeing to postpone the agreement on the transition of Azeri natural gas through Turkey and setting up diplomatic relations between Ankara and Yerevan has increased the appeal of alternative natural gas shipment destinations, both towards Iran that is to east, to Russia that is to west over Russia and to north that is to Russia, for Azerbaijan. Some events occurred, but not noticed by everybody, around the pipelines included in the “Southern Corridor” and foreseeing to transport the Caspian natural gas to Europe have been significant factor. The energy maneuvers on an enormous geography from Trans-Caucasia to Central Asia are hereby in question.

The time is approaching to take serious steps to determine the course of the events in the Caspian Region in coming years. (S. Tarasov, Regnum,10.1.2010).  As of the end of 2009 the trade volume between Russia and Turkey increased 49 per cent reaching a record amount of 33,8 billion USD. Ankara allowed the Southern Stream natural gas pipeline to flow through her territorial waters. The capacity of new natural gas pipeline project increased from 31 million cubic meters to 63 million cubic meters per year. Apart from that the parties have been going on to discuss about the Southern Stream II Project.

Energy has a pivotal role in shaping Turkey’s regional role as the country, a major consumer of energy in its own, is also key to linking oil and gas producers in Russia, Caspian, Central Asia and the Middle East with energy-hungry markets in Europe. Yet, Turks are not content for being a simple “bridge” over which energy flows only; they aspire to become a regional hub extracting greater value for the criss-crossing oil, gas pipelines and power interconnections. This is an exceptional and unique role Turkey could play as a regional energy hub, rather than a bridge. This is what Washington and Brussels should be supporting wholeheartedly. Unlike the West, Russia seems to have adjusted much earlier to this new geopolitical game.

* SUNY- Binghamton University- Fernand Braudel Center former scholar, Yıldız Technical Uni., Department of Humanities and Social Sciences-İstanbul / İnonu Uni. Department of History, Turkey
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07