The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Turkey Bets Big against Russian Gas

The Caspian natural gas pipeline project is back on the front burner. After a decade-long hiatus, Turkey and the EU are reviving the project to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Azerbaijan to Turkey and on to Europe. Asia Times has the story:

On September 3, the EU’s Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz, and Azerbaijani delegates held talks with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and other Turkmenistani officials in Ashgabat. A new Turkish policy emerged on this occasion.

Yildiz announced explicitly that Turkey intends to import and transport Turkmenistan’s gas through the proposed trans-Caspian and TANAP pipelines.

Currently, Azerbaijani gas flows to Europe through the trans-Anatolia pipeline to Turkey and into the Southern Gas Corridor to Europe. Ten years ago, Gazprom and influential Turkish groups killed the trans-Caspian project in favor of the Blue Stream pipeline from Russia to Turkey, which brought in expensive Russian gas instead of the cheaper stuff from Turkmenistan. Turkey appears to have seen the light, however, and is back on board with the Caspian project.

For Turkey, this makes a lot of sense:

Turkey’s interests are five-fold in seeking to maximize TANAP’s gas flow: to meet growing internal demand, to reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies, to replace Iran’s overpriced and interruption-prone deliveries, to boost Turkey’s role in the energy corridor to the European Union, and to enhance TANAP’s profitability and investor appeal.

It also works well for the EU, which is embroiled in an antitrust investigation of Gazprom, the dominant energy supplier to Europe. Gazprom’s dominance has been a thorn in the side of many European countries for years. Any new source of energy—especially if it’s cheaper and more reliable than what comes from Russia—will be welcomed with open arms.

Published on September 14, 2012 9:00 am