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Turkey is diversifying its energy imports
In a secret meeting in 1942, then U.K Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “The challenge of working with allies is that sometimes they develop opinions of their own and we don’t always perhaps give those opinions the respect they deserve.” Alliances are crucial for success in foreign policy. Good alliances cannot form unless statesmen understand the concerns and possible regional problems of their allies and take the long view. Everybody, including Turkey, needs to think about these words of wisdom.
Frequent readers of this column will know that I advocate the long view when it comes to Turkey. I think that the country’s economic, demographic and social fundamentals are strong, and that they will yield stable outcomes in the future. Let me give you another data point regarding this longer view today: Turkey’s heavy reliance on Russian and Iranian natural gas is declining rather rapidly. How?
Russia’s share in Turkish natural gas imports declined from 58 percent in 2011 to around 34 percent in 2019. This trend is continuing. In the first six months of 2020, the share of Russia declines from 34 percent to 21 percent.
So, which country is crushing Russia’s monopoly in supplying energy to Turkey, a totally energy-dependent country and Russia’s southern neighbor? It’s the rapidly rising share of Azeri natural gas and the increasing importance of LNG.
The share of Azeri gas was around 11 percent in 2011 and went up to 21 percent in 2019. In the first half of 2020, the share of Azeri gas in Turkish imports rose to around 24 percent, surpassing Russia’s share. There is also the growing LNG market, which means that natural gas is no longer bound by region, but can increasingly be shipped around the world, like oil. Technology is a wonderful thing. So, as a result, the share of American LNG in total Turkish imports has risen from 4 percent in 2019 to 10 percent in 2020. Considering the pace of technological advancement, this trend in diversification can only increase.
It is all thanks to the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline between Azerbaijan and Turkey. No wonder the frozen conflict of Armenia and Azerbaijan has started to heat up once again. Armenia reportedly hit targets in the Tovuz region, which is where the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is passing through. Why is that important? Turkey and Russia are to start negotiations on extending their pipeline deals in early 2021. This recent fight won’t accomplish much for either Armenia or Azerbaijan, but it might strengthen Russia’s position when sitting down with its southern neighbor.
The absence of the U.S. as a hegemonic influence has meant that alliances are far too fluid to fit into neat categories. Israel, which cultivates good relations with Azerbaijan to counter the Iranians, all of a sudden finds itself on the same side as Turkey. It is in times like these that we should appreciate the importance of alliances and act accordingly.