TURKEY & RUSSIA GAS PIPELINE
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that his country may still supply gas to the EU via Bulgaria, despite canceling the South Stream gas pipeline project in December, adding that it will also maintain natural gas cooperation with Turkey.
On Dec. 1, Putin scrapped the South Stream project that would carry 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to Europe via Bulgaria, and instead announced that Russia will build a new pipeline to transport the same volume through Turkey to reach Greece.
"The only option that is still on the table is the plan for a pipeline from Turkey to Greece or Bulgaria," Dr. Igor Okunev, vice-dean at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told The Anadolu Agency in a written statement.
"But this is the option where Turkey has to decide how and with whom it wants to cooperate," he added.
Turkey and Russia are also negotiating for a reduction on the price of imported gas from Russia to Turkey.
Last December, Putin offered a 6 percent discount for Russia's exported gas, while Turkey insists on a higher discount rate.
"If I was Turkey, I would negotiate an even greater discount to take full advantage of Putin's weaker negotiating position," said Dr. Sijbren de Jong, a strategic analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, referring to the Ukraine crisis and Gazprom's unpopularity among European policymakers.
Western powers imposed sanctions on Russia barring its energy sector from accessing western financial institutions and high-tech equipment due to the unrest in Ukraine.
In addition, EU energy market rules and regulations forbid energy firms, such as Russia's biggest gas company Gazprom, to both supply and own gas transmission networks -- one of the major bottlenecks for the South Stream project.
"President Putin clearly said a couple of times last month that there is no return to the South Stream and the pipeline will be built to Turkey," Okunev said.
"I think that this represents a consensus in the Russian political elite that there is no possibility of starting such a huge and risky project such as the South Stream to Bulgaria without an atmosphere of trust between the EU and Russia," he underlined.
On the other hand, de Jong believes that Putin is trying to pressure the EU and show its might to some EU members.
"Putin is basically trying to make the EU sweat. The cancellation of South Stream shows, in the eyes of Putin, what Russia can do to individual EU member states such as Bulgaria, if they do not abide by the rules set by Moscow," he said.
"But, Putin then subsequently put up a show by showing his supposed 'leniency' and willingness to discuss other options with the EU. In other words, he is 'willing' to give the EU a second chance," he explained.
De Jong stressed that Putin's remarks on the continuation of cooperation with Turkey is meant to add pressure on the EU, by letting them know they have a "competitor."
Dr. Okunev stated that the new pipeline project through Turkey is a basis for closer interconnections and interdependence between the two countries, providing opportunities to develop closer economic and political ties in the interests of the two nations in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
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