Black Sea gas pipeline fuelling Russia’s growing influence - analyst

The inauguration of the Turkstream gas pipeline this week is another manifestation of Moscow’s growing grip over European countries in the face of U.S. opposition, wrote former Turkish Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış in his column for Arab News on Sunday.

The TurkStream is aimed at punishing Ukraine, or at least reducing its significance as a transit country for Russian gas to the eastern and central European countries, Yakış wrote. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Turkey on Wednesday to launch the pipeline, which will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in its gas deliveries to Europe. TurkStream is projected to carry an annual 31.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas, with half to be delivered to Turkey and half to continue onward to European countries.

Bulgaria’s foot dragging on the project resulted in Moscow shifting the gas pipeline’s landing point from Bulgaria to Turkey and naming it TurkStream instead of South Stream, the article said.

The project is set to settle an ongoing dispute over Turkey’s receipt of from time to less than its scheduled quantity of gas, it said, as it will reveal whether it is Russia or Ukraine, who point the finger at eachother, who is responsible for the decrease in supply.

Russia has also laid another pipeline, Nord Stream 1, through the Baltic Sea to Germany, while its Nord Stream 2 is set to become operational in the summer of 2020.

The United States, which vehemently opposes the construction of these pipelines, has announced that it will impose sanctions on companies that are involved in the construction of the pipelines. 

Washington may have two motivations for the move, Yakış wrote, depriving Russia of the income resulting from the sale of gas or selling its own liquefied shale gas.

Meanwhile, Turkey will continue to pay a higher price for Russian gas than distant countries like Germany, France and Italy, due to a weak bargaining position when the gas deal with Russia was negotiated, the article pointed out. 

Becoming more dependent on Russia for its energy  could have advantages for Turkey due to closer economic ties, Yakış wrote, but the increasing reliance can also poses risks.