Natural resources are key elements to understanding war and conflict. Recent clashes between Russia and Turkey or negotiation between Turkey and NATO also build on deep relationships with natural resources, specifically natural gas.
1. Turkey and Russia
Turkey and Russia have had an unstable relationship on account of natural gas for some time. There is an interdependent relationship which increases the complexity of interaction and conflict considerably. Turkey is a major consumer of Russian gas and oil and benefits from the revenue from exports to European countries: Russia established a pipeline through the black sea in order to avoid Ukraine. This project can only be accomplished via Turkey’s cooperation in the “Turk Stream”. Until now, the main pipeline between them has been the blue stream: it provides 13.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas and fulfils 57% of Turkish needs ( Bloomberg, 2015). Both countries benefit from increasing demands in Europe for Russian gas and oil. The major issues in the way of this cooperation are Syria and ISIS. Trenin (2015) also pointed out the possibility that Turk Stream will be postponed or cancelled. Tensions sparked as a result of the Russian fighter being shot down by Turkey are just the tip of the iceberg.
2. Natural gas and Europe
One of the reasons why NATO is intricately involved in the aftermath of the aircraft shooting is that some NATO countries are recipients of gas via Turkish Gas Companies instead of Gazprom which is the biggest Russian provider. European countries heavily rely on the Russian natural gas. Germany, for example, received 38.7 billion cubic meters and was the largest importer of Russian gas in 2014 (Bloomberg, 2015). Additionally, the Ukraine crisis ensured that considerations of sustainability of supply and stability of price, were major issues to be addressed. Hence, the European Union has already offered support to Turkish governments and companies.
The Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) is one of these which aims to secure and diversify the supply of natural gas from Caspian region. TAP and TANAP are projects related with Turkey and very keen to connect from Shah Deniz fiel to Europe. Therefore, for NATO, specifically Western European countries, offering backup to Turkey this time may present good opportunities to gain their future natural gas supply, while practising containment towards Russia.
In addition, the possibility of acquiring natural gas without Russian pressure enables the EU to act more independently when they deal with territorial issues or other political problems. The uninterrupted flow of gas to Europe was one of the major foreign policy determinants during the Ukraine crisis and possibly the reason the majority of NATO countries were not as robust as might be expected in dealing with Russia during the Crimea issue. Backing up Turkey is essential now, for NATO to maximise their power over the European continent as well.
BBC, (2014). Russia’s gas fight with Ukraine. [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29521564 [Accessed 7 March, 2015].
Bloomberg business (2015), Ten Billion Reasons Why Russia Will Balk at Curbing Turkey’s Gas [Online] Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-25/ten-billion-reasons-why-russia-will-balk-at-curbing-turkey-s-gas [Accessed 25 November, 2015]
Bloomberg business (2015), Russia, Turkey and World War G [Online] Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2015-11-24/russia-turkey-tensions-hit-the-natural-gas-market [Accessed 25 November, 2015]
Daily Sabah (2015) , EU approves construction of link roads for Turkish Stream [Online] Available at: http://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2015/11/20/eu-approves-construction-of-link-roads-for-turkish-stream [Accessed 24 November, 2015]
Tenin (2015), Nato and UN seek calm over Turkish downing of Russian jet, [Online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/nato-and-un-seek-calm-over-turkish-downing-of-russian-jet [Accessed 25 November, 2015]