Putin’s Strategy Kills Another Black Sea Pipeline

Russia’s belligerent foreign policy claims a second Black Sea gas pipeline as its victim.

Russian president Vladimir Putin attends negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, February 11
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, February 11 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine)

Plans for a new Black Sea natural gas pipeline have fallen victim to the deteriorating Russo-Turkish relationship.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters on Thursday that work on Turkish Stream, a pipeline designed to pump Russian gas into Southeastern Europe while bypassing Ukraine, had been suspended.

Eni, the Italian oil and gas company that was supposed to buy the Russian gas, also said the project was dead in the water.

The news comes almost exactly a year after Russia abandoned its last plan for a pipeline under the Black Sea, called South Stream.

Both cancellations were the due to President Vladimir Putin’s belligerent foreign policy. South Stream became unviable after he invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine; Turkish Stream can’t be build now because Russia is punishing Turkey for shooting down one of its fighter planes.

Sanctions

Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian warplane on their border with Syria last month. Putin called the incident a “stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism,” accusing Turkey of aiding fanatical Islamist groups in Syria and promising sanctions in retaliation.

The two powers back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict: Russia supports the regime of President Bashar al-Assad; Turkey supports the opposition against him.

Less than a year ago, Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, agreed to expand energy relations between their countries. The Russian leader announced a 6-percent discount on the sale of natural gas to Turkey as well as plans to build Turkish Stream.

That came after European pressure and scrutiny had forced Russia to abandon South Stream.

Thursday’s announcement leaves Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, with miles of specially-ordered pipeline that is now useless as well as $12 to $14 billion in losses.

Bypassing Ukraine

Both South and Turkish Stream were designed to bypass Ukraine, the former Russian satellite state that currently transits around half the gas Russia sells into Europe.

Neither pipeline was needed. Russia is believed to use just 60 percent of its present pipeline capacity.

Yet it also plans to build another pipeline under the Baltic Sea, called Nord Stream 2, to directly supply Germany.

Eastern European countries that used to be under Moscow’s sway recently wrote to the European Commission to express their doubts about this project.

“Preserving the transport route through Ukraine is the strategic interest of the EU as a whole,” they argued, “not only from an energy security perspective, but also reinforcing the stability of the Eastern European region.”

European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete agreed, saying, “Ukraine is a safe transit route. Gas should continue to flow through Ukraine.”

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