22.05.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Turkey Expands Energy Security Diversification

Turkey Expands Energy Security Diversification

The security of the state includes many components with energy security playing a special role. The degree of development and security of the energy sector determines to a large extent the economic, social and defense aspects of the state.

The availability of a country’s own natural energy resources (in particular, oil and gas) and technologies (green energy production, nuclear energy, processing plants) naturally creates both competitive advantages and a sufficient level of energy security and independence. On the other hand, the lack of appropriate resources and underdeveloped industrial technologies leads to a high dependence on external suppliers.

In this regard, an import-dependent state tries in its energy policy to minimize the monopoly of an external factor, to exclude total domination by one supplier in the national market and to dilute the existing dependence by other suppliers. Such a policy is not new in the world practice and is aimed, as a rule, at taking into account the world market conditions and geopolitical processes.

In other words, although the formula ‘business and nothing more’ remains an irrefutable rule of international trade, nevertheless, in the situation of turbulent geopolitical processes, aggravation of global and regional contradictions, the ongoing search for a new structure of the world order and block dependence, this rule does not always work, because the laws of economics often yield to political interests. Under these circumstances, there is a growing need to diversify energy security for economic and political reasons.

Turkey, due to its physical geography and level of scientific and technological development, is not known to have sufficient natural resources of oil and gas, nor does it have a high level of industrial technology. For objective reasons, Ankara has to cover its energy needs mainly by importing, for example, gas from a number of countries.

The fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, with the implementation of large energy projects supported primarily by the United States and the United Kingdom to export oil and gas resources of Azerbaijan bypassing Russia through the territory of Turkey to the EU countries turned the modern Republic of Turkey into a key transit hub and naturally had a positive impact on the energy security of the Turkish state. The fact is that Turkey is not only a connecting transit link for Caspian oil and gas to Europe, but also receives these types of strategic raw materials at reasonable prices, for example, from Azerbaijan.

However, the export volumes of Azerbaijani raw materials are insufficient to meet all the energy needs of Turkey’s growing economy. That is why, in addition to energy communications from Azerbaijan (in particular, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline, the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline), Turkey has been quite successful in developing an energy partnership with Russia. This pragmatic policy has resulted in a number of major existing and prospective projects in the energy sector (in particular, the completed Blue Stream and Turkish Stream gas pipelines, Akkuyu NPP, the planned gas hub and Sinop NPP). And although Ankara also imports gas from a number of other countries (in particular, by pipeline also from Iran, and LNG from Algeria, France, Egypt, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and the U.S.), Russia still remains the main external supplier of this type of raw materials.

For example, in 2022 Russia supplied 21.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey via the Turkish Stream and Blue Stream pipelines, while at the end of 2023 this type of Russian exports to Turkey decreased to the level of 15 billion cubic meters of gas (almost to the level of 2019).

For comparison, Azerbaijan exported 10 billion 257.22 million cubic meters of gas from the Shah Deniz field to Turkey in 2023 (i.e. 17.8% more than in 2022).

In 2023, Russia remained the main supplier of gas and oil to Turkey. According to Turkish publication Hürriyet, in October 2023 49.93% of Turkey’s oil imports came from Russia, while in 2022 this figure was 40.74% of oil. Thanks to increased Russian supplies of oil and oil products, Turkey saved about $2bn in 2023. Russia was also the main exporter of natural gas to Turkey in 2023. In October 2023, it accounted for 59.14% of Turkish imports. At the same time, Moscow provided Ankara with deferred payments, which had a positive impact on solving Turkey’s economic problems. In particular, Turkey received a deferral of payments for Russian gas worth $600m until 2024 due to rising energy prices.

Meanwhile, in 2023, Russia lost its leadership as a gas exporter to Turkey and ended up third, with Algeria and the United States being the main gas suppliers. In particular, Algeria exported 1.8 million tons of gas worth $1 billion, while the U.S. supplied 1.1 million tons of gas worth $628 million.

Turkey started producing natural gas from its own Sakarya field in the Black Sea in 2023, which according to the Turks’ plans will allow them to meet the needs of the domestic market and reduce imports of natural gas in the foreseeable future. However, it is too early to talk about commercial volumes and a well-established process of gas production and distribution from the field.

During the 2023 presidential election campaign, Recep Erdoğan’s main opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the pro-American Republican People’s Party (RPP), accused the former of making Turkey totally dependent on Russian gas and oil supplies through his energy policy. According to the Turkish opposition, the allegedly similar strategic partnership with Russia can lead to Turkey’s high dependence not only in energy and economy in general, but also in politics and security.

In other words, the then leader of the RPP, in line with the U.S. policy of causing a rift in the Turkish-Russian strategic partnership, was sending a message to the public that the energy security strategy should be revised in favor of diversification and stronger ties with the United States. At the same time, special emphasis was placed on the crisis state of the Turkish economy and finances, which would be difficult to remedy without external investments from Western countries and international financial institutions on the recommendation of the United States.

In the end, Recep Erdoğan’s heavy electoral victory led to the consideration of the attitudes of the pro-Western opposition. This was reflected in the change of the financial bloc of the Turkish government, in the personnel appointments of pro-American specialists (in particular, the return of Mehmet Şimşek to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, the nomination of Hafize Gaye Erkan as head of the Central Bank, and then her replacement by Fatih Karahan). The Turkish government and Central Bank embarked on a strict monetary policy and raised bank interest rates, fueling massive inflation and a rapid devaluation of the national currency (Turkish lira) against the U.S. dollar. However, the tough measures of Erdoğan’s new government since the fall of 2023, i.e. after the presidential elections, have not only started to manifest themselves in the financial and banking sector, but have also affected the energy sector.

In particular, Turkey has begun to rapidly reduce its gas purchases from Russia, but is increasing its LNG purchases from the United States. In April 2024, Turkish Minister of Energy Alparslan Bayraktar announced the start of talks with U.S. energy company ExxonMobil to sign a multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian energy. In an interview with the Financial Times, A. Bayraktar emphasized the importance of diversifying gas sources to ensure Turkey’s energy security. In particular, he said, “We should look for gas where it is available and favorable, be it Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran or LNG from other countries.”

The fact that the Turkish banking system started refusing to accept Russian payments and transactions of Russian companies from the beginning of 2024 with the reasoning of ‘U.S. pressure and sanctions threats’ is evidence of a new change in Turkish policy in favor of a restart of relations with the main U.S. ally. Ankara, thanks to its approval of Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO, has already received some positive impulses from Washington. In particular, the U.S. approved a ‘military deal’ to supply 40 upgraded F-16 Block70 fighter jets, while the World Bank decided to increase financial aid to Turkey for the next three years from $17bn to $35bn (i.e. by $18bn).

Thus, Turkey is changing the trajectory of its energy security in favor of reducing its dependence on Russia. In this respect, Ankara counts on U.S. and European support in the implementation of new energy projects in the post-Soviet space, related to Turkey’s access to the energy resources of the Turkic countries of Central Asia (in particular, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) and their integration with the Southern Gas Corridor and Trans-Anatolian transit. Of course, such a prospect guarantees Turkey new favorable supplies of energy carriers (primarily gas) from the eastern coast of the Caspian basin and effective diversification of energy security.

Naturally, such an approach by Turkey does not mean that the Turks will stop importing Russian energy resources. However, the ratio of such imports will tend to decrease in order to minimize dependence.


Alexander SVARANTS – Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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