Robert Harneis –TDO-(France) - President Erdogan and President Putin have officially inaugurated the almost complete gas pipeline across the bottom of the Black Sea. It will delivery ultimately 31.4 billion cubic meters of gas per year for Turkish consumption and for onward transmission to south and south east Europe. It replace South Stream that was intended to connect Bulgaria and Russia directly but was obstructed by The European Union and Bulgaria under extreme US pressure.
Turkey already imports 29 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2017, up 17.3% from 2016, through the existing Bluestream and the Trans Balkan Pipelines.
The underwater section of the pipeline will be 930km long. In addition, there will be 180km on land in Turkey up to the frontier of the European Union. Gazprom’s Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev said that the company envisaged sales in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Austria.
An extension of the pipeline to Bulgaria was announced by President Putin in June. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asked Russia to extend the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline to his country and further into Europe.
The development of Turkish Stream across the Black Sea and Nordstream2 under the Baltic has incurred the disapproval of the United States and its Baltic allies notably Poland. The US is worried that desperately cash strapped Ukraine which currently gets 2 billion euros a year in transit fees for Russian gas will soon be cut out of a lucrative market making it even poorer than it is already. The US would also like to sell their own LNG to Europe but it is too expensive.
Washington has been complaining about European purchases of Gas from Russia since the time of President Ronald Reagan. Recently Secretary of State Pompeo again threatened to stop the Baltic pipeline. After a meeting with Ukraine’s Minister of Finance he said "We will keep working together to stop the Nord Stream 2 project that undermines Ukraine's economic and strategic security,’ At the same time US Ambassador to European Union Gordon Sondland said that Washington has instruments to slow down or even stop the Nord Stream 2.
Expressing German irritation with US pressure on Germany, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said of the current US Ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, ‘We can’t accept being treated like an occupied country. When I look at the behavior of the US ambassador to Germany I get the impression he sees himself as an occupying officer rather than an ambassador in a sovereign country.’ Schröder was closely involved with the building of Nordstream1 & 2 and is currently on the board of Nordstream 2. He is a firm believer in the need for better European relations with Russia. His father, a corporal in the German army was killed fighting in Russia in 1944 six months after he was born.
Gas supply is one area where Germany ignores US bullying because it is economically vital. There is now talk of a further increase in the Baltic pipeline with a Nordstream3. The US complains that buying gas from Russia makes Europe dependent on Russian energy, ignoring the fact that it also makes Russia dependent on European money. Washington undermines its position opposing trade with Russia by buying rocket engines, helicopters and fire fighting planes from Russia when it finds it convenient. They even bought two tanker loads of Russian gas themselves last winter during the East Coast gas shortage.
With the completion of Turkish Stream in the Black Sea, Nordstream2 in the Baltic, the Power of Siberia Pipeline to China and its new LNG plants Russia will have a better balanced portfolio of directly linked clients.
Turkey will be well on the way to becoming a strategic gas hub.