Washington, D.C. — With ties to the West under strain, Turkey is exploring closer economic and, to some extent, political cooperation with Russia, according to a new issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress. Most recently, this has focused on a proposed new natural gas pipeline that could change the balance of the energy trade for Turkey and the European Union. The new pipeline proposal, if realized, could serve Turkish interests by positioning the country as a key energy corridor between European markets and Russian and Caspian energy resources, while cutting Ukraine out of the Russian energy trade.
For the United States and the European Union, these actions should raise serious concerns, as the new project seems designed to increase European and Turkish reliance on Russian energy. The brief argues that Turkey’s interest in this proposal is the most recent signal of Turkish intent to pursue a more independent foreign policy course, even from within the confines of NATO membership.
“Perhaps Turkey’s interest in a Russian natural gas pipeline could be viewed simply as a pragmatic approach toward energy security,” said Alan Makovsky, CAP Senior Fellow and author of the brief. “However, when one looks at the drift of Turkish-Russian relations overall under the Erdoğan government, it is hard not to see Ankara’s interest in the Russian proposal as a symptom of further Turkish drift from the United States, the European Union, and the West. This presents economic and security concerns for the West, given Turkey’s strategic importance, NATO membership, and the Erdoğan government’s growing scorn for Western values, such as freedom of expression.” Makovsky noted that Turkey is the only NATO state that did not join the sanctions regime against Russia in response to Moscow’s Ukraine policies.
According to the brief, Turkey’s actions would also impact Europe’s ongoing effort to decrease its own dependence on Russia by developing a southern corridor for Caspian Sea energy through Turkey. The proposal currently of interest to Turkey is to import Russian natural gas through a new pipeline, with Turkey as the hub for dissemination to other parts of Europe. The proposed new pipeline could undercut the viability of a pipeline currently under construction that is intended to bring natural gas through Turkey to Europe, not from Russia but from the Caspian Sea.
Click here to read the brief.
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