July 27, 2015

"The Turkish Gambit-2": the Zugzwang for the Kremlin

In March 2015, experts of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” drew our readers' attention to the Russian-Turkish Agreements on the construction of a new gas pipeline “Turkish Stream” (by which Russian natural gas had to be delivered through Turkey to Europe, bypassing Ukraine). This was one of the main topics for discussion by participants of the global energy market.

In particular, following a number of meetings of A. Miller, the head of “Gazprom” and T. Yildiz. Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey (in January and February 2015), the route of the new pipeline was determined, and the earlier results of technical and economic calculations were discussed. The parties agreed to sign the intergovernmental agreement on the “Turkish Stream” gas pipeline in the second quarter of this year.

And what happened?

Problems began in May, when Taner Yildiz, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, on the channel TRT Haber officially announced that Turkey refused to participate in the construction of the “Turkish Stream”. At the same time, the Turkish side declared its intention to establish a joint Russian-Turkish company for gas storage in Turkey (in the province of Edirne).

Despite this, the Russian Federation on its own (without the consent of the Turkish side) continued activities to implement the “Turkish Stream” project and in June, A. Novak, the Russian Minister of Power Industry, and P. Lafazanis, the Greek Energy Minister, signed a Memorandum on the construction on the territory of Greece of the gas pipeline as a continuation of the “Turkish Stream.”

The first violin in advertising this step was entrusted to Mr. Panagiotis Lafazanis who quite optimistically assured that this pipeline would play a stabilizing role in the region, and the implementation of the project was not directed against anyone...

And these (Greek-Russian) statements were made against the background and at the time when Greece was already in a deep economic crisis, and Russia — in the situation of preserved/continuing international political and economic sanctions (i.e., actually in the situation of international political and economic isolation), and today it has neither technologies, nor pipes, nor money for implementation of the “Turkish Stream.”

Besides, the Russian leadership seems to have ignored the current statement of Marosh Shefchovich, Vice-President of the European Commission on Energy Union who made it clear that Russia's plans to build a new pipeline through Turkey, bypassing Ukraine, as a transit country for transportation of gas to the European Union would not work.

Apart from this, there has been an official statement of the operating company South Stream Transport B.V. (a subsidiary of OAO “Gazprom”) to terminate the contract with the Italian contractor Saipem to build the first strand of the offshore section of the pipeline “South Stream”, on the basis of which it was planned to build a “Turkish Stream”. How long will it take “Gazprom” now to find a new contractor for the construction of a project of this level?

It is therefore not surprising that the conditions under which the imperial neo-ambitious Russia is playing in the energy market with its “partners”, do not meet European and world standards of fair play, since only Russia would benefit from them, in violation of all economic laws and norms of international law.

The Turkish leadership was shocked by the impudence of the Russian side, namely: firstly, without the consent of the Turkish side, Russia on its own began to implement the project “Turkish Stream”; secondly, the RF was not going to reduce the price of gas for Turkey (in 2015 the average price for it is 420-425 US dollars per 1 thousand cubic meters); thirdly, Turkey has only now realized that Russia uses it only as a transit country. This recent statement of T. Yildiz, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, has created a stalemate for energy sector of the Russian Federation.

That is why Turkey has refused to carry out the transit of Russian gas, because, according to the Minister, the “Turkish Stream” should meet the interests of both countries. And his statement that unilateral concessions in the implementation of the “Turkish Stream” may endanger the interests of Turkey, says only about one thing — neo-imperialist Russia, as expected, has “brilliantly... lost” this game.

Noteworthy are several points around Turkey's position on this issue.

What was Putin guided by: political impudence or diplomatic illiteracy (or even a sense of impunity and permissiveness), when in fact on the eve of final approval of the construction of the project “Turkish Stream,” he called April 24, 1915 “... a sorrowful date, associated with one of the most terrible and dramatic events in the history of humanity — the genocide of the Armenian?”

As for the future supply of gas to Turkey, it has a number of prospective and functioning sources, namely: Azerbaijan, Iran, Nigeria, Algeria and so on.

By the way, Turkey is for the first time participating in the international multinational military trainings which are held in Ukraine, in Lviv region (on the Yavoriv training ground) from 20 to 31 July 2015.

Thus, after the “Turkish Gambit”, using the language of chess (the “Political chess” included), Russia itself is getting into “zugzwang” — helpless condition, — when each of its next steps on the issue of natural gas supplies to Europe bypassing Ukraine will lead to further deterioration of the situation. Strictly for Russia.