Gas pipeline: Russia and Turkey move together

Gas pipeline: Russia and Turkey move together

Faster than expected, the Russians have relocated a gas pipeline through the Black Sea to Turkey. But Turk Stream is not just a gas pipeline. It is also a symbol of a common interest policy.

It was a spectacle when the almost half a kilometer long and 124 meter wide "Pioneering Spirit" plowed slowly through the Bosporus. The supposedly largest ship in the world looks like a floating town with its many superstructures. Before it docked in Kiyikoy, Thrace, it had laid a 1,800-kilometer natural gas pipeline on the bottom of the Black Sea. At the end of 2019, gas will flow from the Russian Anapa on the northeastern shore of the sea to Kiyikoy in the west for the first time. As soon as the planned twin pipeline is in operation, Turk Stream will bring 31.5 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually to Turkey. About Blue Stream (see map) are purchased annually 16 billion cubic meters. The relocation of the pipes was entrusted to Switzerland-based All Seas Group. Thanks to good coordination, the company Turk Stream writes, one arrived one month earlier on the opposite bank.

Responsible is the Russian natural gas company Gazprom. It wants to use one line to supply the Turkish market, the other one should be led further into the EU. Whether the route via Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary will lead to Austria, or via Greece to Italy, is still open.

In any case, the new project is a replacement for the EU-prevented South Stream pipeline. At the beginning of the decade, the Russians wanted to deliver gas through the Black Sea and across the Balkans to Central Europe together with European partner companies. However, the European resistance stiffened after the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, and in December 2014, Gazprom capitulated.

The EU had demanded from Russia to accept the EU's so-called third energy package. This provides that the operator of a line may not be identical with the gas supplier. Gazprom was scheduled for both. The Russians argued that the contracts were older than the regulation, which could not apply retroactively. The EU remained tough despite protests from the Italian (Eni), French (EdF) and German partner companies (BASF). The Balkan countries, which had looked forward to transit fees, were disappointed. But the project was buried.

But shortly thereafter, Putin revived it with the name Turk Stream, which Erdogan had been allowed to vote for. The figure had also changed it: this time, the Russians only want to deliver to the EU's external border and then leave it to the Europeans how they would pick up the gas there. Whether this will become something is currently still open. Gazprom appears to negotiate with European partners through a line between Greece and Italy.

For Turkey, the new leadership is very welcome. Their hunger for energy increases despite the economic crisis. In 2017, the country consumed 53.5 billion cubic meters of gas, an increase of 20 percent over the previous year. The Turks not only want to consume gas, they also want to pass it on and distribute it. President Erdogan's goal is Turkey as an important gas hub for Europe.

After Germany, the country is the second largest customer of Russian gas. Nevertheless, Ankara has few reservations about becoming overly dependent on Moscow. Thanks to its location, it is also a sales market for Iranian and Azerbaijani gas and also supplies liquefied gas from Algeria and Nigeria.

With Turk Stream, Russia is not only pursuing economic, but also strategic interests: it weakens Kiev by systematically separating Ukraine from its gas flows as a transit country. If one day the pipeline Nord Stream 2, which brings Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany, Moscow has come one step closer to this goal. In 2017, 80 billion cubic meters were delivered via Ukraine. This amount could flow in the near future through the pipelines on the seabed in the north and south.

Turk Stream is also a strong symbol of the newly discovered community of interest between Russia and Turkey. It also shows itself elsewhere: In Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast, the Russians build the first nuclear power plant in Turkey, and the Turkish army wants to procure the S-400 missile system from Moscow. The two powers also cooperate very pragmatically on the battlefields of Syria.

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