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World View: Turkey’s Erdogan and Russia’s Putin Sign TurkStream Gas Pipeline Deal

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Turkey’s Erdogan and Russia’s Putin sign TurkStream gas pipeline deal
  • Turkey-Russia TurkStream deal based on pragmatism rather than reconciliation

Turkey’s Erdogan and Russia’s Putin sign TurkStream gas pipeline deal

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday in Istanbul (Reuters)
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday in Istanbul (Reuters)

Officials from Russia and Turkey signed an agreement on Monday for the Turkish Stream pipeline project, to build pipelines supplying Russian natural gas to Turkey and to western Europe. The agreement was signed in Istanbul, Turkey, during the World Energy Congress, during a ceremony attended by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Also attending was Ilham Aliyev of president of Azerbaijan, since Azerbaijan will be taking part in the project.

The agreement is being viewed as the biggest sign so far that Turkey and Russia are overcoming their differences after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November 2015. Nonetheless, all the signs are that this was a deal of pragmatism, rather than any real warming of relations between the two leaders or the two countries.

Both countries have become internationally isolated because of sanctions. The West imposed sanctions on Russia after Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Turkey became isolated when Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey because of the shootdown.

The relationship between Russia and Turkey became extremely vitriolic, but neither country did anything that might be called a “nuclear option.” The sanctions that Russia imposed on Turkey — food imports/exports, tourism restrictions, etc. — hurt both economies, but were not sufficiently serious to be significant.

For Turkey, the “nuclear option” would have been to close the Turkish straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles channels), the waterways that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, to Russian ships that wish to travel between the two bodies of water. That never happened.

Russia could have canceled natural gas shipments to Turkey through the existing Blue Stream trans-Black Sea gas pipeline, but that never happened either.

Further plans on the new TurkStream gas pipeline project were canceled after the shootdown last year, as were plans for a Russian-built nuclear plant in Turkey. But with Monday’s agreement, those plans are are all now being implemented. Sputnik News (Moscow) and VOA and Reuters

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Turkey-Russia TurkStream deal based on pragmatism rather than reconciliation

Both Turkey and Russia have had ailing economies recently. Signing the TurkStream deal on Monday will mean major economic benefits to both countries – assuming that the pipelines are actually built.

Russia’s existing pipelines run through Ukraine, a country whose relations with Russia are even worse than Turkey’s. The TurkStream project would provide an alternate path for Russian gas to reach Europe. The TurkStream pipelines would bring infrastructure investment into Turkey, and would provide steady income in the form of transit fees of Russian gas through Turkey to Europe.

However, Turkey and Russia are still deeply divided over the war in Syria. It is hard to remember now, but before 2011, Erdogan, Putin and Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad were all allies. Then the so-called “Arab Spring” began, and al-Assad began slaughtering peaceful protesters, as well as women and children in marketplaces and schools. In August 2011, when he launched a massive military assault on a large, peaceful Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia, filled with tens of thousands of women and children Palestinians, Turkey turned against al-Assad. At the same time, Putin, who has plenty of his own experience in slaughtering innocent women and children, became al-Assad’s ally and protector. Those bitter differences between Erdogan and Putin still exist, and will not disappear as long as al-Assad is governing Syria.

Another bitter difference arises from the fact that Turkey has invaded northern Syria in Operation Euphrates Shield, in order to drive fighters from both Kurdish militias and and the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Turkey has set up a “safe zone” in northern Syria for Syrians fleeing from al-Assad’s violence. This means that Turkey’s troops are expected to remain for some time.

On the Russian side, Russia is installing advanced surface-to-air missile systems. Since the jihadist groups do not have an air force, these missile systems are presumably meant for aircraft from Europe, the US, and especially Turkey.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it is clear where this is going. As I’ve been writing for years, in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries will be on one side, and the West, India, Russia and Iran will be on the other side.

People often say that two countries will not go to war because it would be bad for business, and that’s being said now about the Russia-Turkey business deal. But that is not how the world works. If two countries have high volumes of trade, then that just becomes another weapon of war, as one country imposes sanctions on the other. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Time

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syria, Operation Euphrates Shield, safe zone, Bashar al-Assad, Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, Russia, Vladimir Putin, World Energy Congress, Turkish Stream, TurkStream, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Ukraine, Crimea, Bosporus, Dardanelles, Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea
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