22.02.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Russian-Turkish gas hub has become an object of US concern

Following the collapse of the USSR, the United States is considering its role in the status of a global world leader. In relations with its NATO allies, Washington, moreover, continues the previous course of the flagship, which does not tolerate any deviations of its satellites from the strategy of the White House.

And during the Cold War, the United States ruled out any easing of the ruling regimes in NATO countries in favor of the left movement and pro-Soviet sentiments. To do this, the CIA acted as an important tool for monitoring and controlling the political situation in Europe and Turkey, and any (direct and indirect) signs of change were punished within the framework of the same Gladio operations.

In the modern period, the United States, recognizing the strategic importance of Turkey’s geographical location and its membership in NATO, nevertheless, maintains a high tense reaction to the independent course of President R. Erdogan. The problematic nature of US-Turkish relations over the past two decades of the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is associated with two contradictions:

1) President Erdogan’s focus on the revival of the imperial status of Turkey within the doctrines of neo-Ottomanism and Neopan-turkism;

2) effective Turkish-Russian multi-vector cooperation (including such areas as economics, politics, nuclear energy, military security, communications).

Taking into account the military-political aggravation of Russian-Ukrainian relations and the US sanctions war against Russia, America is extremely jealous of President Erdogan’s continued independence in terms of maintaining partnership ties with Moscow, active mediation of Turkish diplomacy in the settlement of Russian-Ukrainian relations, and Turkey’s truncated participation in Western sanctions pressure on Russia.

Since October 2022, a new “headache” has appeared for the Joseph Biden administration related to President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to create a gas hub in Turkey. The implementation of this project will create a new platform for the formation of natural gas prices without the influence of political factors and risks (including for supplies to EU countries if they are interested).

This initiative of Russia became possible after the West undermined the Russian Nord Stream gas pipeline, as well as due to Turkey’s high reliability as a transit of Russian gas to Europe (the latter is a consequence of President Erdogan’s firm position on the construction of the same Turkish Stream gas pipeline)

American journalist Seymour Hersh conducted an independent investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline. In his interview with the Berliner Zeitung, he claims that the United States was dissatisfied with Germany’s policy of cooperation with Russia in the field of energy and commissioning of the Nord Stream–1 and Nord Stream–2 gas pipelines. That is why President J. Biden gave the command to his special services to carry out sabotage on these communications on the eve of the likely start of the Russian SMO in Ukraine.

It seemed to America that in this way it would be able to exclude any option of exporting Russian gas to Europe. However, there remains the southern (Turkish) transportation route and the independent pragmatic policy of Mr. Erdogan. Accordingly, the Russian-Turkish gas hub project has become a new object of increased attention of the United States, because it can compensate for the volume of gas traffic through the Nord Stream (in any case, this is initially assumed).

In the autumn of 2022, responsible representatives of the American administration began to come to Turkey in order to put pressure on Ankara in terms of compliance with the sanctions regime against Russia. The visit of the American delegation headed by the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for the Control of the Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg stands out in this list. Then Washington actually banned large Turkish banks from cooperating with the Russian payment system MIR and threatened them with sanctions. As a result, all five Turkish banks (in particular, “Ziraat Bank”, “Vakifbank”, “Halkbank”, “Isbank” and “Denizbank”), who agreed in August 2022 to use the “MIR” system, had to refuse to service the Russian card a month later.

The United States now opposes the creation of a gas hub, because it encourages its allies (especially in the NATO bloc) to reduce energy dependence on Russia and, as the representative of the US State Department V. Patel, exclude any possibility of the emergence of a “safe haven for illegal Russian property and transactions.” Such a course, according to the United States, will supposedly have a beneficial effect on changing Russia’s position in the conflict situation with Ukraine.

However, President R. Erdogan, objectively assessing the benefits of developing economic (including energy) cooperation with Russia, regardless of the anger of the United States, approved the Russian gas hub construction project. Turkey is becoming an increasingly important partner of Russia, because Western sanctions are closing the way for trade, investment and travel to the same Europe. Russia can provide Turkey with serious dividends from the sale of gas, appropriate discounts for the Turkish market, and an increase in the transit of goods to third countries. Moreover, Turkey, receiving a Russian gas hub and taking part in the re-export of gas, becomes an important connecting energy region and acquires a key influence on the economy of Europe itself.

In the situation with a severe earthquake in the southeastern provinces of Turkey, some foreign experts began to note that the gas hub in Eastern Thrace could be postponed due to obvious financial problems for the Turkish economy and even allegedly there was an explosion of part of the pipeline communication along the bottom of the Black Sea. It should be noted that the construction of a gas pipeline and related infrastructure in Turkey for the same gas hub is mainly carried out at Russian expense, so the Turkish financial and economic crisis will not be an obstacle here. It is unlikely that an earthquake in the south-east and the Mediterranean coast is capable of undermining pipeline communications in the north-west in the Black Sea basin. However, no one can guarantee the exclusion of a recurrence of the history of the undermining of the Russian Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in the Turkish part of the gas pipelines in the Black Sea.

Judging by the way the Turkish ministers (in particular, Süleyman Soylu and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu) negatively assessed the actions of the United States and a number of EU countries (France, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, etc.) to suspend the activities of their diplomatic missions in Turkey on the eve of the earthquake (allegedly due to threats of a major terrorist act), we can assume about the next convulsions of American diplomacy in order to undermine the productive growth of Turkish-Russian relations.

Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.