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Turkey–Russia Energy Relations: Same Old Story, New Actors

This article aims to outline the history of Turkey’s relations with Russia in the energy sector. The energy relationship between these two competing states dates back to the early 19th century when the Ottoman Empire fulfilled its coal and oil demands with Russian supplies. The history of Ottoman-Russia and later Turkey-Russia energy relations is an important aspect of the aforementioned states’ histories that needs to be unearthed and examined to better understand the complex relationship these states currently share. For instance, the complications that surround the recent natural gas pipeline projects such as Nabucco, South Stream, and Blue Stream II, reminiscent of previous projects in the region, can be better understood if one analyzes the semi-successful Baghdad railway project of the early 20th century. This article aims to analyze and highlight the complex relationship of yesterday in Turkey-Russia energy relations in an effort to shed light on the complexities of that same relationship today. The story will sound amazingly similar albeit with different actors.

 

Although recently a growing interest in the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia has garnered academic interest1 a closer examination of both states reveals a history full of cycles where the presence of outside powers and global balances at large have created previous instances of close cooperation. The histories of both states are full of conflict and differing views yet their joint frustrations with outside powers have served to bring them together on different projects, especially in the area of energy. The current era of warm relations between the two states, which began roughly with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, finds Turkey and Russia frustrated with the United States and, at times, the European Union. This frustration has led to joint projects in the Black Sea, in the area of energy and in bilateral relations at large. It was recently announced that visas would be eliminated between the two countries.2 Growing American interference in regional policies dealing with states that either border the aforementioned states or are directly in the aforementioned states’ sphere of influence has led both states to reconsider their historically antagonistic relationship.

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