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Turkey and Russia: The Importance of Energy Ties

Turkey and Russia maintain close energy ties in spite of difficulties in other areas of their relationship. This compartmentalization of ties was tested following the downing of a Russian jet by Turkish Armed Forces. However, the Turkish Stream had been suspended prior to this incident by Ankara, in part because of disagreements over gas pricing. Reconciliation between Ankara and Moscow led to a reactivation of the Turkish Stream. Given their mutual dependency the energy relationship between Turkey and Russia will likely remain fairly immune to possible future downturns in ties.

Turkey and Russia The Importance of Energy Ties
Vladimir Putin, after his meeting with President Erdoğan on December 01, 2014, announced that the Turkish Stream would replace the South Stream. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

This article examines the continuing importance of Turkish-Russian energy ties in the face of strains in relations between Ankara and Moscow over Syria. There is an assumption that the shooting down of a Russian jet over Turkish territory in November 2015 led to the collapse of Turkish Stream. However, this much-trumpeted project had already been suspended by Ankara, in part because of disagreements over gas pricing. Focusing on the significance of Russian gas exports and on Russian plans to construct Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, this article analyses developments before, during, and after the crisis in relations between Turkey and Russia over Syria. In this context, the Syrian crisis refers to the deterioration of relations between Turkey and Russia in the period from November 2015 to June 2016.

Close energy ties between Turkey and Russia were maintained after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea in 2014. At first sight, the erstwhile successful compartmentalization of energy ties from other aspects of the Turkish-Russian relationship seemed to have collapsed over the fighter jet incident with the suspension of Turkish Stream. However, Turkish Stream had already run into serious difficulties by late July 2015 before the downing of the Russian jet. Meanwhile, Gazprom continued to deliver substantial volumes of gas to the Turkish market after November 2015, and preparatory work by the Russian state-owned Rosatom on Turkey’s first nuclear plant at Akkuyu, while slowed down, was not halted.

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