• December 2022 (1)
  • March 2022 (1)
  • January 2022 (1)
  • November 2021 (1)
  • October 2021 (1)
  • September 2021 (2)
  • August 2021 (4)
  • July 2021 (3)
  • June 2021 (4)
  • May 2021 (5)
  • April 2021 (2)
  • March 2021 (5)

    What brings Erdogan, Putin and Berlusconi together?

    Güven Sak, PhD08 August 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 1214


    Putin who until today responded to those saying 'Nabucco' as 'With what they are planning to fill it?' or 'what the hell is that?' has talked about Ankara as an alternative route. Well said, we think.


    Recently, the number of the dates to write down is gradually increasing. A couple of days ago, we said fourth of August must be noted down as a bad day. Remember, on that date, interest on government debt securities fell down to 9.92 percent in secondary markets. And we said, "With a made up budget, interest rates do not vary at that level under normal conditions, this signals economic recession". This time, however, we had better write down somewhere the sixth of August as a good day. Yesterday Nabucco project; and today second Blue Stream project, construction of Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline and South Stream project reaching Italy through Greece as well as  Ceyhan - Aşkelon project have came on the agenda. Something is going on around us. Let us put aside the conspiracy theories and the rumors reading "man, I hear they are making the bargain" and see with what purpose Erdogan, Putin and Berlusconi came together and take a look at the potential bright future for Turkey.


    While Andrey Kolsnikow, who is known as Putin's journalist in Russia, was making fun of the chaos in Kommersant yesterday resulting from significant organizational problems as well as people's hustle to find a seat in the meeting hall, he also emphasized the historic importance of Putin's mentioning Nabucco project for the first time. Putin who until today responded to those saying 'Nabucco' as 'With what they are planning to fill it?' or 'what the hell is that?' has talked about Ankara as an alternative route. Well said, we think. Let us take a look at the picture with this impression.


    Let us first put down a historical note: this is not the first association of Turkish, Russian and Italian administrators. They have already come together before; for Blue Stream - 1 project. In that project, natural gas was also received from Russia and carried to Turkey. This was already a common practice. In the past, Russian natural gas was carried only through Ukraine-Moldova- Romania and Bulgaria. With Blue Stream designed in 1997, Russian natural gas started to be transferred directly to Turkey.  The route's passing through Ukraine did not affect Turkey as severe as Europe was affected in the recent period. So, what were Italians doing there? Blue Stream - 1 project involved the construction of a natural gas pipeline passing under the Black Sea to carry natural gas directly to Turkey. Italians also assumed part in the construction of this pipeline. Thus, the Blue Stream - 1 project, designing of which was completed and contracts of which were signed when Mesut Yılmaz was the Prime Minister, anyway brought together Russian, Turkish and Italian firms. As a result, Erdogan-Putin and Berlusconi needed to meet together for the Blue Stream - 2 project anyway.


    But, did the last association have a qualitative difference compared to that for Blue Stream - 1? In our consideration, it did. Blue Stream -1 was designed considering rather Turkey's energy consumption alone, whereas Blue Stream-2 seems to include a more global perspective. Here, the phases of the expansion of the project must be examined: First, Blue Stream-2 constitutes only a certain part of the series of agreements signed so far. With this project, Russian natural gas will arrive in Turkey through a new pipeline to be built under the Black Sea making it possible to transfer the gas to Israel through Turkey with a pipeline to be built under the Mediterranean Sea. Second, the South Stream project to be constructed with the ENI-Gazprom partnership in the context of the signing of the agreement is allowed to pass through territorial waters of Turkey, which means that Turkey is involved in a new international energy policy.


    Three leaders that met in Ankara on the sixth of August must be happy in this sense. Why is that so? First, Berlusconi was in Turkey for the sake of the South Stream project. It was of importance for Italy that the South Stream pipeline to be constructed by the Gazprom-ENI partnership passes through Turkey's rather than Ukraine's territorial waters to reach Bulgaria. Therefore, on the sixth of August, Berlusconi was a happy man in Ankara. Second, Turkey did not only consider the domestic natural gas consumption needs of her own. With the signing of Nabucco, this set of agreements certified that Turkey is becoming a transit country for energy. Turkey's horizon expanded from Mesut Yılmaz administration to Erdogan's administration. As a result, on the sixth of August, Erdogan must have been a happy man in Ankara. Third, Putin found another route to transfer the Russian natural gas to European as well Israeli and Indian markets more safely without using Ukraine. This was as important for Russia's security as it is for energy security of other countries. Thus, on the sixth of August, Putin also must have been a happy man in Ankara.


    But, does this set of agreements block the way of the Nabucco project? No it does not. I could never forget the interview with Zeki Yamani broadcasted in BBC a couple of years ago. Yamani, who was the Saudi oil minister during the oil crisis of 1974, said "The Stone Age came to an end not for a lack of stones and the oil age will end, but not for a lack of oil". It is inventions that changes the eras. And inventions are born out of needs. Technological developments stem from needs. In 1974 this was what Arab countries saw: They used oil as a weapon, and thus triggered two types of technological change: First, a technology that needs less oil was developed. Second, non-oil energy resources become to get widespread. Natural gas was not present in the past. Now, if another political crisis emerges, renewable energy market will expand further. Gas transmission problems Russia faced because of the instability in Ukraine created question marks in the minds of European countries about the reliability of Russian gas.  Helping Europe in diversifying energy sources to get rid of the question marks is not to disadvantage but in the interest of Russia. Otherwise, a rise in oil prices resulting from energy security concerns will deepen further the Europe's renewable energy attack and technology. Oil and natural gas reserves will not deplete as a result, but renewable energy resources will come into prominence. In the face of the global warming, Russia has to make decisions on her own energy dependency. Transferring the old energy through more routes will block new energy giving Russia the opportunity to manage more regularly the problem of energy dependency.  It should be kept in mind that Europe's energy security and Russia's energy dependency are closely connected. Therefore, it will not be surprising to see resources of Russia in Nabucco along with other countries. Diversification is beneficial in the long term. This approach is definitely beneficial for Turkey.


    And about the "man, hear they are making the bargain" rumors: In what sense it is bad for Prime Ministers to try to collect contracts for the firms of their country? How is it bad to make bargains at the highest administrative level unless the "equal treatment principle", fundamental requirement of competition, is violated? We can assess separately whether or not that principle is violated; but currently at global level, things seem to be on track in the medium term.


    Blue Stream 2 and South Stream projects have a more global and long-term vision which is the advantage of Turkey. National stability of Turkey is now of higher importance. And now, other parties become stakeholders in Turkey's stability.


    This is the situation. If you do not get drowned in the shallow stream ahead in the short term, we will have an easy path in the ocean in the medium term. The issue is to cross the weak and shallow stream without getting drowned before reaching the ocean. Then, Turkey will have an easy and fine cruise. Let us hope for the best.


    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 08.08.2009