The Gas Games (Don’t Really) Heat Up

by Joshua Foust on 5/11/2009 · 2 comments

So this new deal with Turkey over Nabucco—will that stick around for very long?

The Turkish leader indirectly linked any Nabucco deal with progress on Ankara’s negotiations with Brussels on joining the EU. The negotiations are being blocked by Greek Cypriots, while several big EU states are quietly happy to see Turkey’s EU bid frozen. But Barroso and others insisted that Ankara was not setting conditions for a Nabucco agreement.

That is certainly novel. Years ago, before the BTC pipeline was online, many analysts were making the same claims about Turkey’s energy posture vis-a-vis Russia: that the Turkish government was so consumed with worry over the amount of toxic chemicals transiting the Bosphorous they were pushing ahead with BTC so there was a way to lessen the volume of heavy shipping.

Who knows if that is true. But the big bottleneck in this whole system remains point of origin. Eastern Turkey, where Nabucco will begin, is not especially rich in natural gas—most of that comes from nearby in the region. While Azerbaijan can provide some gas, the real treasure in Nabucco will be either building the TransCaspian pipeline, or extending a pipe into Iran. Both options are political hornet’s nests. As Steve LeVine has documented extensively, noting that there is a growing consensus amongst American energy policy wonks that Nabucco “is not the Holy Grail that will solve the problem” of Russia’s growing monopoly on European gas.

So while this agreement looks fabulous, it’s unclear just how it will change the regional energy balance.

See Also: Steve LeVine’s overview of the evolving NATO—Russia relationship.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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AJK May 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I would think that a pipe into Iran makes a whole lot more sense right now then Turkmenistan. It seems that Iran is no longer treated nearly as much like a bogeyman by the US, and sooner or later Europeans are going to learn that Turkmenistan is really far away.

Barring an absolute diplomatic coup by Turkey that can bring about a Pax Turania, it seems like Nabucco could never happen as planned. And I don’t think the EU wants a Turkey with that much sway, anyway.

Anyways, I’ve been reading Registan for a while now and since this is about Turkey, I can actually say something intelligent (this was intelligent, right?). I’m about to get my BA from UMaryland in history in a couple of weeks, and will probably be on here a bit more as I get more into Central Asia going forward. Here’s to staying in touch.

Doug May 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm

I’m beginning to understand that the EU and Turkey are more enemies than friends. Whatever benfits the EU, specifically France, Germany, Austria and Geeks of all kinds, will be detrimental to Turkey. I’d rather see Russia own the EU via Gazprom than see Turkey continue to beg the EU for this and that. The Kemalist businessmen in Turkey are at fault – I hope Erdogan weeds them out and reduces their influence. Turkey must Look North and East. The Western fairytale is over! To Hell with helping dwarf Sarko and the French!

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