Washington and Brussels set their sights on TurkStream pipeline amid crackdown on cooperation between Ankara and Moscow

By Conor Gallagher

At the beginning of this year, there were four pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe, and a fifth (Nord Stream 2) was about to start. Now Nord Stream 1 and 2 are dead, the Yamal pipeline is closed, and the amount of gas flowing through Ukraine has significantly diminished.

This leaves TheTurkStream pipeline, which carries natural gas from Russia to Turkey and then to southeastern Europe, in the crossfire.

South Stream Transport BV, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Gazprom that operates the Black Sea portion of TurkStream, said the Netherlands withdrew its export license on September 18 amid broader sanctions from the European Union. South Stream Transport has applied for a new license but does not know if it will receive it.

Now South Stream plans to “suspend all contracts related to gas pipeline technical support, including design, manufacture, assembly, testing, repair, maintenance and training” due to sanctions.

This means that “no one will be able to make repairs if one of the pipes is damaged, gas leaks, or if part of the pipeline breaks due to an earthquake.”

The news comes on the heels of Moscow’s claim that it thwarted an attack on TurkStream. Washington’s superstars are now heading into the pipeline.

Mitchell Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute writes that “Biden must kill Turk Stream to advance transatlantic energy security.”

Former CIA Director and notorious perjury John Brennan is deeply concerned about all the pipelines that bring natural gas to Europe:

TurkStream was launched in 2020 as part of Russia’s efforts to diversify its export routes away from Ukraine. It has the capacity to produce 31.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, half of which is for Turkey and the other half for the Balkans and Central Europe.

Oddly enough, the Blue Stream pipeline, which brings gas from Russia to Turkey, but not to Europe, has not yet been subjected to the same scrutiny as the Turk Stream.

Gas Infrastructure in Southeast Europe. Source: Congressional Research Service

The main European customers of TurkStream natural gas are Serbia and Hungary – the former is an ally of Moscow, and the latter is the EU’s most vocal member against Russian sanctions.

Other countries, such as Austria and Slovakia, receive gas from the Turk stream through Hungary.

Milos Zdravkovic, who heads the energy management division of the Public Enterprise Road of Serbia, told Serbian Monitor that attacking Turk Stream would be more difficult than attacking Nord Stream because “it is under Russian and Turkish control, and it is difficult to carry out. A terrorist attack because this pipeline is located at such a deep depth.” at the bottom of the sea.”

However, countries that rely on Leave Stream are aware of the threat. Hungarian Foreign Minister Petr Szijjarto said on September 28 that more attention should be paid to the safety of Turk Stream in order to avoid a fate similar to that of Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Bulgaria has just opened a pipeline link to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in Greece, which supplies natural gas from Azerbaijan and reduces Sofia’s dependence on the Turkish pipeline.

Greece’s largest gas company has just completed a deal with Total Energies to deliver liquefied natural gas in the event that gas flows from TurkStream are stopped or stopped.

TurkStream came about after the United States and the European Union effectively killed the Russia-Bulgarian South Stream pipeline in 2014. The project would have transported Russian gas under the Black Sea, bringing it up to Bulgaria and then passing through Serbia and Hungary to Austria.

Instead, Russia turned to Turkey and opened TurkStream at the start of 2020 despite US sanctions on companies involved in the pipeline’s construction.

In addition, the United States helped kill the EastMed pipeline that would have brought natural gas from deposits off Israel and Egypt to Greece and elsewhere in Europe via Cyprus. US Under Secretary of State Victoria “F*** the EU” Nuland said at the time that it would take a long time and that the solution instead was to increase shipments of LNG to Europe.

Russia supplied about half of Turkey’s natural gas purchases last year, and at the August summit in Sochi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to gradually start paying for Russian imports in rubles.

Doing so will avoid the dollar and protect the Turkish economy from its dwindling hard currency reserves. The Turkish lira has fallen about 27 percent against the dollar this year.

The loss of TurkStream will have dire consequences for the already collapsing Turkish economy.

Turkey will be left scrambling for natural gas supplies like the rest of Europe, and this will hurt exports of Turkish industry, which Erdogan is committed to boosting by lowering borrowing costs. It continues to reverse the economic trend by lowering interest rates. In September, consumer prices rose 83%, and the domestic producer price index rose 152% year-on-year.

Turkey’s deficit reached $4 billion in July, reaching $36.6 billion for this year. The foreign trade deficit reached $10.7 billion in July. The rising import bill – especially energy – played a big role in the figure.

Without leaving Stream, Ankara will also lose undisclosed monthly amounts to the Turkish treasury in transit fees per cubic meter moved.

Turkey is now asking Russia to defer gas payments until 2024. Any economic support Erdogan can find could help him next year in what will become his toughest re-election battle yet.

In an effort to improve the economy, Turkey has benefited from the conflict in Ukraine and continues to pursue a foreign policy based on “strategic autonomy”.

However, Washington is determined to end Turkey’s economic cooperation with Russia and would not mind replacing Erdogan next year with a NATO leader.

In August, the US Treasury threatened to impose secondary sanctions on Turkish financial institutions for processing Russia’s Mir payment system.

On September 19, Turkey’s two largest private banks withdrew from accepting Mir. Now three state-owned banks are following suit in the wake of what the Kremlin called “unprecedented pressure”.

These moves are likely to deal a blow to Turkey’s tourism industry, which has been seeing a significant increase in the number of Russians visiting the country. Turkey, as the only NATO member that did not apply sanctions against Russia, received 2.2 million Russians (an increase of 600,000) during the first seven months of 2022.

The United States is also abandoning its neutral stance on the long-running rivalry between Turkey and Greece and the transfer of arms to Athens, which is escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

In September, Greece received its first two F-16 military aircraft from the United States as part of a $1.5 billion program to modernize the Greek fleet. Ankara, which is excluded from the US F-35 program to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems, is concerned that in time Greece could have a stronger air force than Turkey.

The United States is also ramping up its control of the northeastern Greek port of Alexandroupolis, 18 miles from the Turkish border, and using it as an entry point for supplies to Ukraine. From Biz:

Over the past three years, the United States and Greece have signed agreements to enhance their defense cooperation and ensure “unlimited access” to a series of Greek military bases. Among them is a facility of the Hellenic Armed Forces in Alexandroupolis. Since this collaboration began, the port has seen unusually high traffic for military ships, so much so that when 1,500 Marines from USS Arlington docked in May, the city’s 57,000 residents faced shortages of some products, such as eggs and tobacco.

American military officials suggested deepening and expanding the port in order to accommodate American Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The US decision to establish a fortress of Alexandroupolis followed Turkey’s decision to close the Turkish Strait to all warships after the start of the war in Ukraine, including its NATO partners who wanted to send weapons to Ukraine through the strait. Rights under the 1936 Montreux Convention on the Regime of the Straits, and Turkey’s adherence to the agreement in not exacerbating the conflict in Ukraine.

American pressure on Turkey via Greece does not stop at Alexandroupolis. Turkish drones have recorded that Greece has deployed armored vehicles donated by the United States on the islands of Lesbos and Samos, in violation of international law.

Turkey has lodged a protest with the United States and Greece over the deployments, and in a covert excavation in Washington, Erdogan recently said “we are well aware of the true intentions of those who provoked and unleashed the Greek politicians against us.”

Hasan Kony, a researcher in strategic studies at Istanbul Kultur University, told Anadolu Agency that the US moves in Greece aimed to send a message to Erdogan:

He said the US security apparatus has also realized that the balance of power in the region is shifting towards Turkey and needs to be “checked by empowering Greece,” adding that Washington’s push for more Greek bases aims to “contain Turkey.”

Historically, the United States has played a buffer role between Turkey and Greece and lowered tensions. no more.

The same is happening in Cyprus, which is divided between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus in the north, which is recognized only by Ankara.

In September, the Biden administration lifted the 35-year embargo on US arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus. Congress imposed restrictions on US arms sales to Cyprus in 1987, hoping that this would spur a diplomatic settlement of the conflict on the island.

Cyprus was asked to prevent Russian naval ships from accessing its ports in order to lift the embargo on the sale of US arms.

Turkey already has about 40,000 troops on the island, and Erdogan recently announced plans to reinforce them with land, sea and air weapons, ammunition and vehicles.

Offshore gas fields discovered in the early 2000s further complicated the territorial dispute over Cyprus. The global energy crisis in the wake of the West’s war on Russia has increased the stakes. Washington’s exploitation of the situation to pressure Turkey will add fuel to the fire.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides fears that Cyprus could be drawn into the Turkish-Greek conflict. In an interview with Bloomberg TV on September 26, he said, “The Turkish army is stationed on our island and we are afraid that any conflict in the Aegean will affect us directly because we will use the weakest link in the whole story.”

Kasoulides should take a closer look at the word of Victoria Noland, who said earlier this year at the opening of a US-funded cyber-training and security facility on the island that the security relationship between the US and Cyprus is now “irreversible”.

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