Researcher Shatha Khalil *
Translated by : mudhaffar al-kusairi
Since its new renaissance in the last two decades, Turkey has been seeking, as a rising political and economic force, to build strategic partnerships with major and regional countries around the world, especially the strategic relations it has built with Russia, the major power that has effectively returned to the international scene, where “Turkey and Russia have completed the Turkish Torrent Project , which was opened in Istanbul, (January 8, 2020), where Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in Istanbul, in the ceremonies of the inauguration of the new gas pipeline, and the strengthening of ties in the field of energy and political relations between the two countries.
The “Turkish Torrent” is a joint giant economic project between Moscow and Ankara, which is based on transporting Russian natural gas to Turkey and the countries of southern and eastern Europe, through tanker pipelines that pass from the Black Sea and across Turkish territory, the state of Kirklareli in the northwest, then to the Greek lands, to end at its borders, where huge gas deposits are established, and then supplied to consumers in eastern and central Europe.
The project contains two tubes with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas annually for each of them, and starts from Russia to Turkey through the Black Sea, as the first tube feeds Turkey, and the second in eastern and southern Europe.
It is expected that upon completion of the project, there will be four lines with a total supply capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, but currently the project will be limited to two lines only.
The total length of the gas transmission lines is about 1160 km, and they are distributed as follows: “930 km under the Black Sea bottom” and “180 km on the Turkish mainland”, in addition to “50 km on the Russian mainland”.
Thanks to the “Turkish Torrent”, it will reach Turkey directly without the presence of any intermediary country, 15.75 billion cubic meters out of 31.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
Ukraine has always been the main country through which pipelines pass to supply Europe with Russian gas , as more than 80% of Europe’s gas imports from Russia in the early years of the second millennium were crossing from Ukrainian territory until the beginning of this century.
However, the crisis that erupted between Moscow and Kiev, and the extent of the Russian military intervention in the Crimea, made the first think about finding alternatives, and indeed in 2011 Russia concluded an agreement with Germany to build a North Stream marine pipeline that runs through the North Sea and allows the supply of 55 billion Cubic meters of Russian gas annually to Germany directly, bringing the proportion of Russian gas that passes through Ukrainian territory to about 48%.
Moscow was not satisfied with this, and tried to persuade Bulgaria of a project to build new pipelines that pass through its territory under the name “South Stream”, but the European Union, of which Bulgaria is one of its members, stood as an obstacle to completing this project, in addition to the pressure exerted by the United States prevent this project to be established, in the context of Western fears of increased Russian influence.
The Turkish expert, Junaid Kazukoglu, confirms that the project opens a bypass road to bypass Ukraine, which has monopolized the supply of Russian gas through the southern gas pipeline throughout the last period, in addition to that the project gave Moscow a historic opportunity to monopolize gas exports to Europe, whose pace of demand is steadily rising until it reached in recent years, 450 billion cubic meters annually.
It is also a very important gain for the Russians who are doing their best to limit the role of Kiev, and reduce its influence on Russian interests after the Crimean crisis that has ruled its relations with Moscow since 2014.
Economic reports indicate the export of Russian gas to Europe from Turkish territory will enhance relations between the two countries, and increase the ability of the Russians to interfere with regional powers with projects in the region, meaning that the “Turkish Torrent” project will give Russia a new alliance with Turkey to strengthen its alliance with Iran.
“Russian gas shipments will arrive in Bulgaria, Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia, and they will be delivered via the new delivery point” on the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
As for the economic importance for Turkey, it is to build a strategic partnership with the Russians on the basis of exchanging economic benefits.
Including obtaining a large share of Russian gas at a reduced price, as well as deducting a good commission from the price of gas flowing to Europe through its territory.
According to observers, Turkey is working hard to impose itself as a power in the energy market, although it is not a producing country for it, by assembling the supply lines in its territory to become a strategic corridor for gas and oil.
Where Turkey is working to build a huge basin of gas, by connecting the lines of Anatolia, southern Caucasus and the Adriatic sea passing from its lands to each other.
According to Turkish politicians, it is a great benefit to their country as one of the largest consumers of gas in light of the industrial development witnessed by Turkey, as well as ending the risks of gas crossing into its lands and turning it into a marine line, in addition to its transformation into a corridor and intermediary for the gas trade.
It will contribute to ridding Ankara of the risks of transit (the passage of gas through the territory of his country), by making it the first buyer of natural gas.
On the connection of the “Turkish Torrent” with the struggle for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, observers confirmed that it is “separate from it, and this project is not linked to it,” and that “the project will secure Turkey as part of its gas needs, but Ankara will still need the gas being searched for in the eastern Mediterranean, meaning that Turkey needs both sources, which confirms the Turkish side’s insistence on protecting its rights from gas in the Mediterranean.
In addition to that the new gas line “will contribute to reducing gas prices on Turkey and its markets as well, and will give Ankara strength in the political field, especially with regard to its strategic relations with Russia.”
In conclusion.. according to Turkish economists, Ankara wants to impose itself as a power in the energy market, although it is not a productive country for it, through agreements, alliances and facilities in order to assemble the supply lines in its lands, to become a strategic path for gas and oil.
Strategic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies