Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey be transformed into a gas hub. This could be a pricing mechanism, in addition to a delivery platform, something that Turkey will certainly find interesting as it aims to shape the region according to its own interests and achieve energy independence.

“If Turkey and our possible buyers in other countries are interested, we could consider building another gas pipeline system and creating a gas hub in Turkey for sales to third countries, especially, of course, the European ones, if they are interested in this, of course,” Putin said during a meeting on the sidelines of the sixth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA), held in the Kazakh capital of Astana on October 13.

Putin had also previously stated that Russia could shift gas transit from the Nord Stream to the Black Sea region and to Turkey. Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez commented that the proposal was technically possible and should be studied in detail.

Referring to the possibility of creating a new gas centre, Putin said that this could calmly regulate energy prices “without any political considerations.” This would allow the regularisation of prices “at a normal market level” as current prices, according to him, are exorbitant.

Likewise, gas pumping to Turkey is at full capacity, Putin assured, stressing that the country has proven to be the most reliable partner.

For his part, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, confirmed that the presidents of Russia and Turkey ordered a detailed and very rapid study of the possibility of creating a gas hub. This is especially important as it is recalled that on October 10, the Russian president announced in an operational meeting with members of the Security Council that Kiev tried to blow up a section of the TurkStream gas transportation system.

This attempt is already preceded by the apparent attack on the Nord Stream pipelines on September 26. Scenes of huge plumes of gas rising to the sea surface near the Danish island of Bornholm became famous all over the world. As Russia is exposed to terrorism, as seen with the attack on Kerch Bridge, building a gas hub in Turkey will help secure Moscow’s energy interests. In turn, Turkey will be further consolidated as an energy hub when considering it is already a crossroads of pipelines.

The Russian and Turkish presidents also discussed the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is also the first nuclear project in the world based on the Build-Own-Operate model. The construction of the first power unit with Rosatom started in April 2018, the second in April 2020, the third in March 2021 and the fourth in July 2022.

Russia has effectively become an indispensable partner of Turkey, which is desperately seeking much more energy independence. None-the-less, there was still a lack of public excitement in Turkey by the gas hub proposal made by Putin, likely due to the expected US reaction to a new Russian gas route running through a NATO country.

The US essentially forced Europe, especially Germany, to find alternative markets. Europe, which normally procures 40 percent of its gas from Russia, reduced the figure to 20 percent after the wave of sanctions that were imposed. The EU are now in talks with Qatar and Azerbaijan to be alternatives to Russian imports, but it appears that Turkey could also become a third party in delivering Russian gas to Europe.

Turkey has maintained that it will not participate in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and EU due to its dependency on Russian gas. This is coupled with the fact that Turkey is a major travel destination for millions of Russian tourists. None-the-less, Erdogan understands that his close relationship with Russia has limits as Turkey is a NATO member.

With Turkey already locked-out of the F-35 fighter jet program for acquiring the S-400 missile defence system from Russia and is now unable to secure US Congressional approval for F-16 updates, Erdogan may want to avoid another major crisis in its relations with Washington and Brussels.

For this reason, Turkey is immensely interested in becoming a hub for Russian gas, but for now will not be boastful about it. Although Turkey is unlikely to leave or be kicked out of NATO, it does understand that the world system is changing to multipolarity and is now attempting to position itself as a country with its own sphere of influence which connects east with the west. By achieving greater energy independence and connectivity, Turkey can work towards this goal.

By Ahmed Adel Via