Espreso. Global

Erdogan plays his favorite game with Putin

15 October, 2022 Saturday

The technological possibilities of building new gas pipelines or strengthening the existing ones are rather a political bluff than a real economic plan


The President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after talks with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ordered the start of the creation of a gas distribution hub for European countries in Turkey.  The first columns of newspapers that support the current Turkish president also write about the possibility of such a hub.  Journalists there claim that their country will "warm up all of Europe."

It is known that the topic of the gas distribution hub turned out to be the main topic at the talks between Putin and Erdogan. There were reports that in fact Erdogan wants to talk with Putin about something completely different, about the creation of the so-called "five-way format" of negotiations between the USA, Great Britain, Germany, France and Russia to settle the situation surrounding the war in Ukraine.  However, the brutal Russian missile attacks in Ukraine this week reduced the chances of such negotiations to zero.  Yes, the White House made it clear that the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, does not see any need to communicate with the Russian dictator.  The only reason he can talk to Putin at the G20 meeting is the exchange of prisoners.  Of course, Putin is interested in completely different topics.

That is why the Russian president cooled to the possibility of negotiations with the West.  So the main topic of conversation with Erdogan was the gas hub.  It became more active after the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines were blown up. After all, Putin still offers Europe to organize the transportation of gas through Nord Stream 2. However, this is impossible, not even technologically, but legally.  The stream has not passed the necessary legal procedures in the European Union, so it is essentially just scrap.  The fact that one of its branches survived the explosion does not mean that, from the point of view of real functioning, the gas pipeline can work.

Thus, the Turkish stream remains. It also has legal problems, as the Netherlands recently revoked the license of the company that operates it.  But from the point of view of technology and Turkey's readiness to export gas with it, it is in a better situation compared to bypass gas pipelines on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

That is why Putin came up with the idea of ​​building a new gas pipeline or strengthening the existing one.  The same idea of ​​bypass gas pipelines that could help Russia bypass the Ukrainian GTS.  However, unlike the previous plans of the Russian president, the current one looks, to put it mildly, a utopia, and it is still not clear what it will lead to.

The construction of Turkish Stream, Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2 required years and the latest technologies, which Russia simply cannot use now due to the sanctions regime.  Not to mention the huge investment funds that Western energy companies invested in the construction of northern gas pipelines.  Currently, there is not a single Western energy company that would like to participate in any Russian projects, even if they will be implemented together with Turkey.  Therefore, the technological possibilities of building new gas pipelines or strengthening the existing ones are more likely to be a political bluff than a real economic plan.

And even if we imagine that new gas tunnels could really be built, then who will use them?  After all, the decision to refuse Russian gas has already been made in the EU.  Previously, it was believed that this failure would occur smoothly, without creating an additional load on the energy system of Europe.  And, it would seem, this is also in Russian interests, since Moscow itself will receive profits from gas, and not lose all the money at once.

However, as we can see, it is not at all beneficial to Russia itself.  Vladimir Putin lives by the idea of ​​freezing Europe.  And in this sense, he is ready to give up Gazprom's profits in principle.  Even the undermining of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline is considered by many in Europe to be Russian sabotage, connected with not supplying gas to European countries.  At the same time avoiding fines for non-fulfillment of obligations under agreements.

By the time the new Turkish Stream capacities are operational, the program to phase out Russian gas will be completed.  By and large, this gas pump will not transport anything.  Hence the question: why build it?  Why waste money?  Where to get this money?  Who will provide the technology?

Of course, Putin and Erdogan can exchange at least a dozen handshakes and 15 declarations of intent, but such a project will not be pulled out.   And, it seems to me, both presidents should come to terms with this.

But the question arises: does Erdogan not understand this?  Of course, he understands.  He is an experienced, sophisticated politician.  In addition, he can be sure that Vladimir Putin also perfectly understands that all these declarations about the creation of a gas distribution hub in Turkey are not worth an egg.  Because it is possible to create it, but it is very difficult for those who will use it.

Therefore, it can be assumed that Erdogan is simply playing his favorite game with Putin: "Agree with a partner and get a discount."  As you know, the grain agreement, which was also discussed by Putin and Erdogan in Astana, gave Turkey the opportunity to buy grain at fairly complimentary prices.  This is important for a country whose economy is not in the best shape and which is experiencing serious migration pressure.  Perhaps, if Turkey starts making efforts in the construction of a gas distribution hub, or even supports this Putin initiative, Russian gas will also begin to flow to Turkey at lower prices.  Especially since it still has to be taken somewhere.

About the author: Vitaly Portnikov, writer, journalist.

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs.

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