Turkish-Russian energy cooperation: are there many prospects? Natalia Ulchenco

Shape Image One
Turkish-Russian energy cooperation: are there many prospects? Natalia Ulchenco

Turkish-Russian energy cooperation: are there many prospects?


Natalia Ulchenco[1]

2007 became the year when both Russia and Turkey had defined  their positions on prospects of cooperation in such important sphere as energy sources trade. In May 2007 presidents of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have agreed to create a consortium for Caspian pipeline project.

The consortium is going to ensure the expansion of capacity of the existing gas pipeline Central Asia-Center-4 from 1-2 billion cubic meters per year up to 10 billion. For this purpose an additional pipeline along the Caspian coastline will be constructed. Besides the capacity of another existing pipeline Central Asia- Center-3, connecting Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, is going to be increased up to  20 billion cubic meters per a year. So Russia is expecting to get about 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Central Asia by the year 2014 instead of 60 billion she is getting today.

As Russian side believes, the two above mentioned projects being the components of the Near-Caspian gas pipeline leaves practically no space for the alternative Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. But this alternative project is a key part of large-scaled international project NABUCCO which is expected to deliver Central Asian gas to the world market bypassing Russian territory but via Caucasus and further through territory of Turkey – to Western and Southern Europe. Russia’s strong conviction is that stocks of gas in the Caspian and Central Asian region are not enough to fill any other gas pipeline but the this one along the coast of Caspian Sea, even though the presidents of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan do not deny the opportunity that Trans-Caspian project can be realized as well.

Russia has tried to confirm her exclusive rights for importing gas from Turkmenistan when the new president G.Berdymuhammedov had just come to power. It seemed the new leadership in Turkmenistan looked at Russia’s plans favorable as the meeting of three presidents in Turkmenbashi city resulted in their mutual intention to realize the gas pipeline along the Caspian seacoast. The Russian side believes that this intention means that the Trans-Caspian project has been given up without any hopes. Simultaneously due to the increase in the supply of Central Asian gas, including gas from Turkmenistan, Russia may expect that gas purchases from Turkmenistan will increase in 2028 up to 70-80 billion cube meters per a year as now Russia is getting no more then 42-44 billion cube meters per a year.

The great importance Russia gives to the realization of the prospective gas agreements with Central Asian Republics is confirmed by the fact that just after Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit held this year in September in Tashkent special talks between Russian Federation prime minister Putin, head of Russian “Gazprom” company Miller from one side and the leaders of the Central Asian Republics from the other side took place. As a result new important details were agreed by the sides. For example, the construction of the new pipeline in Uzbekistan that is going to duplicate the existing one will be realized by joint Russian-Uzbek joint company created by Russian Gazprom and Uzbek “Uzbekneftegas”.

Just at the beginning of October 2008 a Summit of Caspian states was held in Astrakhan (Russia) where the intention to create a new regional organization- Organization for Caspian Economic Development was proclaimed. It seems Russia is going to use it as another instrument to fulfill the Near-Caspian gas project as the information on the new Organization was breaking together with the news that the construction works on the gas pipeline will start at the second half of 2009.

It seems Russian- Turkish gas cooperation could had become even closer as the increase of gas purchases from Central Asia creates new opportunities for Russia’s gas export to Europe, including new opportunities for gas export via Turkey’s territory. So the situation seems to be much like as it had already been more then ten years ago when at the end of 1997 an agreement was signed between Russian Federation and Turkey on the construction of «the Blue stream» gas pipeline. From the year 2003 the pipeline crossing Black sea delivers Russian gas to Turkish port Samsun. But in 1999 rather soon after the signing of the Russian-Turkish gas agreement the agreement between Turkey and Turkmenistan was signed. According to the agreement the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline was going to be constructed with the capacity equal to «the Blue stream»’s one – 16 billion cubic meters per a year. The Turkish side did not hide the aspiration to diversify geographically the sources of gas supplying. So Russia bearing in mind some doubts about the capacity of the Turkish gas market and geostrategic importance of Turkey’s territory realized that drastic measures had to be taken: it was necessary to reserve a prevailing share in the Turkish gas market, to leave no space for the competing gas from Turkmenistan and to get advantage in using Turkish territory for energy sources transit in the future. So in 2003 the Blue Stream was opened. The same year another important tactical step which had provided Russia with father success was taken: a 25-year agreement was signed with Turkmenistan. Under the agreement Russia got the right to  purchase all Turkmenistan gas which was not the subject of any other export contracts. So the Turkish side had to reject any other new gas suppliers except Iran who is providing gas through a pipeline of 10 billion cubic meters capacity per a year. Forecast on purchases of Turkmen gas by Turkish state company BOTASH remains extremely uncertain, their beginning may occur not earlier then 2020 and even 2020 is a big question[2].

A beat less then ten years later  in 2006 new project “Blue stream-2’ had just stared to be discussed between Turkey and Russia. This gas pipeline was going to duplicate “the Blue Stream 1” up to the Turkish port Samsun, but after that it was going to be continued to the South and to the West of Turkey and from there both to  Israel to Southern Europe. The construction of this gas pipeline was discussed in particular during in summer 2006 when President of Turkey Necdet Sezer had visited Russia. He stressed out that Turkish side expected Russian participation in construction of a gas pipeline from Samsun to Turkish Mediterranean port Ceyhan.

The favorable prospects for new project had been prepared earlier when in December 2004 Russian gas company Gazprom and her Turkish partner Botas signed the Memorandum for the development of gas cooperation. According to it  Russian side got the right to deliver gas to Turkish end users  directly from Russia or from companies affiliated with “Gazprom”. In response to this new opportunities at the Turkish market Russian side had agreed to provide  “the Blue stream” with international project status, and Turkey – with the transit country status delivering gas to the Southern Europe and Israel. The prolongation of the gas pipeline to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey was going to become the first step to the realization of the project. In the end of 2005 Turkey had changed  the national legislation to create space for  strengthening “Gazprom”’s position at Turkish gas market – the Russian gas company got the right to control the list of companies delivering gas to end users. So Turkey was expecting the Russian side to start using Turkish territory for gas transit. As Putin stressed out during Sezer’s visit “large investment projects are  on the agenda”. The words were considered to be a positive answer to the expectations of the Turkish side.

In the Summer 2006 Russian Minister of Finance A.Kudrin had informed, that “Gazprom” and Italian firm Eni, Russia’s partner in “the Blue stream” construction, were going to sign an agreement on joint construction of a gas pipeline Samsun-Ceyhan.

But the international status of Turkey has changed significantly during last period. One of the most remarkable changes is the new much deeper level of cooperation with EU: now Turkey is the official candidate for membership in the European Union who much cares about his energy security. Meanwhile the realization of « the Blue stream-2 » project could result in a contradiction between Turkey’s interests and interests of her European partners as the Blue Stream 2 realization would had meant no possibility to diversify the geography of gas suppliers  for EU countries. Therefore official representative of Turkey had recognized, that being adhered to the realization of « the Blue stream-2 » gas pipeline, they could not avoid serious problems in relations with the European Union as Turkey would have got the status of the unreliable partner in the European integration. Actually the system of foreign policy priorities of Turkey is precisely designated in the program of the government: « Developing relations with such large world actors in Eurasia as Russia, China, and Japan are not alternative to the traditionally stable relations with EU and the USA »[3]. It is also emphasized in the program that the «efforts of the government will be enclosed to realization of NABUCCO project assuming transportation of Caspian gas and gas from Central Asia via Turkey to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria»[4].

As the project is of strategic importance for Turkey, it is possible to suggest that one of the reasons Turkey’s activity in Northern Iraq at the end of 2007 was that in November the Hungarian side has expressed her doubts about Turkish ability to provide functioning of NABUCCO as Turkey was hardly able to protect the her territory against Kurdish terrorist attacks.

In turn Russia had defined her position on transnational gas projects. In June 2007 at the meeting of the heads  of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization member states  in Istanbul the president of the Russian Federation V. Putin had announced, that…« Gazprom » is concluding new agreements and, the company is interested to realize new contracts via new transport corridors»[5]. That was the way the Russian leader had commented the signing of an agreements between “Gazprom” and Italian company “ENI” just before the meeting in Istanbul. The new agreement meant by Putin was an agreement on “Southern stream gas pipeline”. It is going  to connect Russia, Bulgaria and Greece via Black sea and then to deliver gas up to the Italian cost.

So prospects on bilateral Russian-Turkish energy cooperation much more limited than one could imagine before had been determined. Some prospects in this area still exist, but they are less promising than could be. In particular they can be realized  through full usage of the capacity of « the Blue stream » gas pipeline. In 2007 t it had been pumped a little more than 7 billion cubic meters while the projected volume is about 16 billion cubic meters[6].

The last events in Russian- Georgian relations made Russia’s dialogue with Europe more difficult and actualized once again the security aspect  in energy sources import to Europe. As usual security means diversification of foreign gas sources. So it seems the international situation became even less favorable for development of energy cooperation between Turkey and Russia, including energy sources transit to the world market via Turkey’s territory. But may be not quite accidentally on September 2 2008 the parliament of Greece had ratified the agreement with the Russian Federation on the construction and operation of  the Southern stream gas pipeline within the territory of the Greek Republic. So not being sure of the prospects of NABUCCO  Greece has declared openly her intention to continue the energy cooperation with Russia. Besides, Italy, Austria, Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria in spite of being potential participants of the NABUCCO had declared even before Greece their wish to join the Southern stream. But, all the above mentioned countries are already EU members that allow them to be more independent in their energy policy while Turkey is constantly and tightly controlled as a candidate country. Speaking on the phenomenon of that kind of independency the head of the international energy agency Nobuo Tanaka had stressed that nowadays each country of the European Union tries to sign bilateral agreements with the energy sources suppliers ignoring an opportunity of the policy coordination in EU. Of course it is not possible to forget about the special attention paid to Turkey’s activities in internal and foreign policy by her European partners. Nevertheless the rejection of the « the Blue stream 2 » project in favor of the alternative Southern stream bypassing Turkey but supported by EU leadership is another Turkey’s victim for yet not evident prospects for full EU membership.


[1] Institute of Oriental Studies, RAS

[2]2 См. www.botas.gov.tr

[3]См. Hükümet Programı. – www.basbakanlik.gov.tr

[4] Ibid.

[5] Российская газета, 26.06.2007

[6] См. www.botas.gov.tr

Bir cevap yazın

E-posta hesabınız yayımlanmayacak.