Putin and Erdogan Meet over Pipeline Plans

Putin and Erdogan Meet over Pipeline Plans

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in Istanbul this Monday. Relations between Turkey and Russia have become closer and the two countries are cooperating diplomatically.

The two heads of state, Putin and Erdogan, talked about strategic issues concerning the two powers. But the meeting had another issue added to the agenda by the Russian side. Also subject for talks between Putin and Erdogan was the project for a pipeline of natural gas. The project is to the advantage of Russia. But it would bring more economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey. So it would benefit the Turkish side as well.

The Relationship between Russia and Turkey Gets Closer

Russia finds itself in tense relations with the United States regarding the situation in Syria. Diplomatic talks between Russia and the United States have gone from bad to worse since the days of jointly working on a cease fire deal for Syria. Also, international pressure is mounting for Russia as France seeks to have the bombing of Aleppo prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.

In the middle of such a situation that is, no doubt, difficult diplomatically, Russia reached out to Turkey. The high-level meeting in Istanbul was another step in the right direction for the Kremlin as it tries to reconcile with Turkey. The project for the natural gas pipeline was talked about and then suspended. If Russia succeeds in reviving the project, it will gain another asset.

The Natural Gas Pipeline Turkish Stream

The new pipeline that the two leaders discussed would be called Turkish Stream. It would run under the Black Sea to Turkey. From then on it would go through Turkey all the way to the Greek border. The pipeline would allow Russian natural gas to reach Western European markets. It would offer an alternative to Russia’s existing pipeline. The natural gas giant already has export pipelines up and running. But they all go through Eastern Europe.

The Turkish Stream pipeline, if built, would be of strategic importance to Russia. It would allow Russia to make moves that right now the country cannot economically afford to make. Russia often uses natural gas pricing as a strategy for foreign policy. With an alternative to the Eastern European pipelines Russia could rethink its pricing policy for natural gas for certain countries. It could even go as far as to cut off the supply of natural gas to neighboring countries. One of the countries that should be worried about such a prospect is, of course, the Ukraine. With a new pipeline, Russia could cut off natural gas supply without it affecting its sales to western countries like Austria or Italy.

Russia has been trying for many years to build another export route for its natural gas to Western Europe. So perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin made an appearance at an international conference on energy.

Turkey is nominally an ally of the United States in the region. It is a NATO country and is very much involved in finding a solution for the conflict in neighboring Syria. However, Turkey has its own internal problems to deal with like the PKK and the recent failed military coup attempt.

Image source: Wikipedia

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