Russian President Vladimir Putin On Thursday, he doubled down on his proposal to make Turkey a gas hub for Europe after deliveries to Germany via the Baltic Sea Nord Stream gas pipeline were halted.
Putin has floated the idea of exporting more gas through the Turk Stream gas pipeline that runs under the Black Sea in Turkey as he met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a regional summit in Kazakhstan.
It is the second unlikely energy proposal Putin has launched in as many days, with European leaders calling Russia’s natural gas cuts a political attempt to divide them over their support for Ukraine. This created an energy crisis as winter approached that fueled inflation, forced some industries to cut production and drove up utility bills.
“This is just another attempt by Russia to use gas as a geostrategic tool to weaken EU and NATO countries,” said Simone Tagliapietra, an energy policy expert at the Bruegel think tank. in Brussels.
Russia was “attempting Turkey to become an energy hub – a long-standing strategic goal of the country – while trying to create new divisions between European countries“said the analyst, adding that Putin’s strategy was unlikely to succeed.
A day earlier, Germany had rejected Putin’s proposal to increase gas flows to Europe via a link of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea – a gas pipeline that has never been operational. Moscow cut the parallel Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline due to technical problems.
The Russian leader first voiced the proposal on Wednesday, saying Russia could increase the volume of its gas exports to Turkey through the Black Sea pipeline.
“We could (…) establish the main supply routes of our fuel, our natural gas to Europe via Turkey, creating in Turkey the largest gas hub in Europe — if, of course, our partners are interested in it,” Putin said. at an energy forum in Moscow.
On Thursday, he said the hub could help regulate “extortionate” prices. “We could easily regulate (prices) at a normal market level, without any political overtones,” Putin said.
“Putin is in dire straits. Nord Stream 1 and 2 are not operational and are unlikely to be for a long time,” said Mehmet Ogutcu, chairman of the London Energy Club. “Europe has made it clear that it will not engage (with Russia) as long as the war in Ukraine continues.”
“Turkey remains Putin’s only option,” he said.
Ogutcu said Turkey was likely to err on the side of caution amid fears of further increasing dependence about russia.
“There is a delicate balance (on Turkey’s part). If the scales tilt too much towards Russia, it will hurt (Ankara’s) relations with the West,” Ogutcu said.
Erdogan has not publicly commented on the proposal, but Putin’s spokesman Dimitri Peskov said Turkey had reacted positively to the idea. Officials in Erdogan’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Turkey’s state-run news agency, however, quoted Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez as saying on Wednesday that it was “too early to assess” the proposal.
“Technically it’s possible,” Donmez, quoted by Anadolu Agency, told reporters at the same energy forum in Moscow. “For such international projects, technical, commercial and legal assessment and feasibility studies must be carried out.”
NATO member Turkey, which depends on Russia for its energy needs and tourism, has criticized Moscow’s actions in Ukraine but has not signed on to US and EU sanctions against Russia. He has maintained his close ties with Moscow and Kyiv and is positioning himself as a mediator between the two. Ankara recently helped broker key deals that allowed Ukraine to resume grain exports and led to a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia.
Although Russia still transports gas to Europe via Ukraine, the quantity has dropped drastically with the two Baltic gas pipelines out of service.
The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was never commissioned because Germany blocked its operation just before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.