Putin, Blocked by Europe, turns to Turkey for Gas Pipeline

By Juan Cole | —

The Russian annexation of Crimea and heavy interference in the Ukraine has had a significant consequence for its hydrocarbon industry. President Vladimir Putin has been forced to cancel a planned natural gas pipeline that would bring the fuel to southern Europe, because of European Union pressure for boycotting Russia. Moscow will not suffer very much economically, however, since it can sell as much natural gas to Turkey as it had been planning to sell to southern Europe, though perhaps at a bigger discount (Turkey has 75 mn people and is the world’s 17th largest economy. Greece has 11 million people and a small economy.)

The Ukraine crisis was in some ways provoked by aggressive expansionism by the EU and NATO into former Russian spheres of influence, in contradiction to promises made by the West to Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in the early 1990s. But be that as it may, Russia’s unilateral annexation of the Crimea and heavy interference in eastern Ukraine is inconsistent with international law.

Turkey plans to grow its economy substantially in the coming decade and is energy hungry, lacking much in the way of gas or oil itself, though it has coal. Slightly discounted Russian natural gas seems a good deal to Ankara. Moreover, Turkey has been rudely rebuffed in its bid to join the European Union, and this deal with Russia is a way for the Turks to remind the Europeans that if the EU had wanted Turkey to join its consensus, it could have admitted Turkey. As things now stand, Ankara is a free agent, and glories in its independence. Russian natural gas also has advantages for Turkey at the moment over Iranian natural gas, since the US has been pressuring countries not to deal with Iran or to allow bank transfers of money from Iran.

The significant political differences between Turkey and Russia on the Crimean Tartars and on Bashar al-Assad in Syria appear to have proved no bar to these economic deals.

Environmentally, burning natural gas is bad, but it isn’t nearly as bad as burning coal; some consider it half as carbon-intensive as coal, but that idea probably underestimates the methane emitted in drilling for gas. And, Turkey has big plans for coal. A
Greenpeace study [pdf] observes:

“According to the World Resources Institute, Turkey plans 50 coal-fired power plants with a total installed capacity of 37,000 MW. This will rank Turkey first among OECD countries investing in new installed coal capacity and fourth globally, behind only China, India and Russia. Some projections suggest up to 86 new coal plant projects, when accounting for those that are in the process of permitting and those that have failed the application process.

In 2011, Turkey’s overall energy mix was comprised of 31% coal, 32% natural gas, and 27% petrol, with the remaining 10% composed of hydropower, wood/biofuels and wind. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resource’s energy vision for 2023 predicts a near doubling of total energy sources, with the only significant difference that use of gas would decrease in relative terms to 23% and the use of coal would increase to 37%. In absolute terms this would mean a 2.3-fold increase of coal use in just 12 years.”

A person can only hope that the diversion of Russian natural gas to Turkey will forestall the building of some of those 50 or 85 coal plants, which are an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. Why sunny and windy Turkey doesn’t initiate a crash program of renewables is a huge mystery, since then their fuel would be free and their economy would really take off.

My advice to Greece and other southern European countries that Putin has just by-passed for natural gas is to turn to renewables rather than seeking to replace Russian gas with Qatari. Italy gets 7% of its electricity from solar. http://m.greenpeace.org/espana/Global/espana/2014/Report/energia/20140624%20IEA%20Spanish%20IDR%20Greenpeace%20.pdfSpain gets 42% of its electricity from renewables.[pdf] Greece so far has little wind or solar power, its main renewable source for electricity being hydroelectric. About half of its electricity comes from dirty lignite coal. A quarter is from gas. Greece has enormous solar and wind potential but its government hasn’t promoted it. Putin wants to maneuver Turkey into reselling Russian gas to southern Europe, so as to sidestep sanctions. But if Turkey and Greece initiated a crash program of renewables they would save money and remove themselves from the geopolitical cross fire.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT: “South Stream closed, Gazprom builds new Black Sea pipeline to Turkey”

14 Responses

  1. The Ukraine crisis was in some ways provoked by aggressive expansionism by the EU and NATO into former Russian spheres of influence.

    Do you think there would be a crisis had the West not provoked it? There was no other reason why Ukraine should not have enjoyed fruitful relationships East and West; like a child spending equal time with separated parents. Is that not closer to what Putin looked to and probably would be happy with today?

  2. Greece cannot initiate a program for anything, since that would require the government to spend money. Greece is under surveylance of the ‘Troika’ and has to implement the most insane austerity program ever, so this is sadly not an option…

    Same is up to a point true for all southern european states.

    The german austerity dictate is again bearing fruits…

    • Those Exceptional Teutons have had a little trouble extending their hegemony over “Natural Deutschland” by force of arms, but hey, is it not amazing what can be done by a mighty Bundesbank, armed only with Euros and the “claims” of Bondholders that “Hey, we have a CONTRACT!”, who so conveniently gloss over the fine print that says, so very clearly, that bonds are priced to include that “risk” thing and that you SOBs do not have some kind of absolute right to repayment when “the Market” you have been so vampire-squiddily gaming “goes South?” Especially by outright theft, among other things, of the cash value of deposits that ordinary people have made in the banks you are raiding, of paychecks and earnings… Lay waste, ye Valkyries!

      • Some people in greece would agree to this sentiment.

        In an interview, whose link I have unfortunately forgotten, a greek veteran said: ‘Once the germans came with tanks and bombers and we fought bravely. Now they come in business suits and we have no clue what to do.’

  3. Professor Cole, mentioning that the Ukrainian crisis was “provoked by aggressive expansionism by the EU and NATO into former Russian spheres of influence” is a good first step.

    However labelling Russia’s actions as inconsistent with international law is a bit blithe. Washington’s actions in the former Yugoslavia set worse precedent and even now Washington is pushing for renewed ethnic cleansing in the Ukraine.

    Russia so far has shown a minimum reaction to egregious interference in its sphere of influence.

    But you are certainly right: Washington’s misguided policies along with Brussel’s cold shoulder could eventually break Turkey off from NATO and expand the Eurasians Customs Union. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of warmongers.

    • “pushing for renewed ethnic cleansing”
      Cut the BS. Ukraine is not nazi Germany part II. The Godwin law basically states that when your argument resorts to the ad hominum of “your side is the nazi Germany side” then you lose the intellectual debate. The Russia meme of calling the opposition ‘Nazi’s’ rings very hollow.

      • Dre: “Cut the BS. Ukraine is not nazi Germany part II.”

        And Alec didn’t say that it was. You did though….

        Dre: “The Godwin law basically states that when your argument resorts to the ad hominum of “your side is the nazi Germany side” then you lose the intellectual debate.”

        How odd. Alec didn’t call the Ukrainians “Nazis”, nor did he stick that label around Washington’s neck.

        Only you did.

        Dre: “The Russia meme of calling the opposition ‘Nazi’s’ rings very hollow.”

        Pre-emptive outrage. How clever of you.

        But Alec didn’t call anyone “Nazi”.

        All Alec did was point out that (a) Washington interference in Yugoslavia was a far graver violation of int’l law and (b) those same beltway clowns are now encouraging some equally-appalling people in the Ukraine.

        He is right on both counts, and he transgressed Godwin’s Law in neither.

        Only you did that. Three times in three sentences, to be precise.

        • I cant figure out if you cant read or you cant count.

          But go ahead and pretend that “According to news reports, Washington has decided to arm Ukraine for renewed military assault on Russian ethnics in Donetsk and Luhansk.” is the same as “pushing for renewed ethnic cleansing”. Nevermind the fact that I cant find any source telling me that we are arming Ukraine. And certainly with nothing to commit ethnic cleansing. Pure hype.

      • Neocons and the Ukraine coup: Exclusive: American neocons helped destabilize Ukraine and engineer the overthrow of its elected government, a “regime change” on Russia’s western border. But the coup – and the neo-Nazi militias at the forefront – also reveal divisions within the Obama administration, reports Robert Parry. – link to consortiumnews.com

        Ultranationalist neo-Nazi parties on the march in Ukraine: Threat of anti-Semitic violence should cause international alarm by John Bachelor – link to america.aljazeera.com

        The neo-Nazis of Ukraine: Out of control by Paul Craig Roberts – link to counterpunch.org

        • I want to see you and “yea, right” in an internet Godwin argument. The fact of the matter is the Ukraine is not the next Nazi Germany and they are not Nazis. To say otherwise is to ignore history and current events.

    • Countries intervene in other countries’ passing civil wars all the time; but annexation is another order of magnitude, intended to be permanent. Consider how rare it has become since Hitler, the ultimate annexer, kind of gave territorial conquest a bad name.

      However, you are right that the US refuses to accept the ancient norm of spheres of influence. Kennan warned that the American people couldn’t be trusted to accept the norms of international diplomacy. We went straight from isolationism (hypocritically ignoring our own sphere of influence in Latin America) to superpower status, which we interpreted to mean only we get to have a sphere of influence, and it is everywhere. We’ve never embraced any position in between these two extremes.

  4. “No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on. NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin link to counterpunch.org

    Apparently, and understandably, Putin doesn’t appear to be inclined to turn the other cheek that our neocon warmongers would quickly clobber with a two-by-four or a guided missile.

  5. The neocons’ plan for US domination of the world involved Turkey. Remember their Frankenstein pipeline, the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan line? Ceyhan is in Turkey, folks. A line designed for no other purpose but to screw Russia out of European energy markets. Tblisi is in Georgia, which the Cheney Administration armed to the teeth, only to find another puppet army incapable of fighting in crunch time. And Baku is in Azerbaijan, one of the “new” Stans that US carpetbaggers descended on in the ’90s to convert into future energy booms for our empire. Now, it’s just another Central Asian dictatorship falling into the Chinese orbit.

    When the first signs of this disaster appeared during the Iraqi occupation, somebody noted that Turkey was also expected by the US, and Britain before that, to be the cork in the bottling up of Russian naval power, but it was being so ill-treated that it might switch sides.

    A Russian naval understanding over the Bosporous with Turkey would be a whole new disaster, making the Russian base in Syria unnecessary.

    Yet no one even understands how Russia gets stronger by no means besides exploiting American idiocy.

  6. ” Russia’s unilateral annexation of the Crimea and heavy interference in eastern Ukraine is inconsistent with international law.” Is this supposed to mean in contradiction toUS observance of International law or an imitation of it?

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