The Turkish Stream agreement is added to the list of developments that do not please the U.S. and as we know Washington is not a city that is just going to sit and watch. Let's see what will happen next?
The Turkish Stream, a planned natural gas pipeline project that will run from southern Russia across the Black Sea to Turkish Thrace, was announced for the first time by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 1, 2014 during a visit to Istanbul. The world was surprised by Putin's words when he aborted Moscow's long-laid plans for a natural gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Europe, known as the South Stream pipeline project, which was seen as a rival to the planned Nabucco pipeline project.
That famous deal was signed in 2009 to carry Central Asia and Middle East natural gas to Europe through Turkey, providing an alternative to break Europe's energy dependency on Russia. The project was widely supported by the U.S. and the European Union, but it wasn't serving Moscow's interests.
Russia first reached an agreement with Germany for a natural gas pipeline project called North Stream through the Baltic Sea to Europe. Construction started immediately and the first section of the pipeline was opened in November 2011. In addition, Russia intended the South Stream to start. That was Russia's response to Nabucco.
However, the project was canceled due to the tension between the EU and Russia as a result of the Ukraine crisis, and Putin declared that Russia would run pipes to Turkey instead. But energy experts in the West never considered the Turkish Stream a promising project. They thought it might be merely a bluff from Putin to make the EU reconsider its opposition to the South Stream. They were not completely wrong, but also not totally right.
Moscow was under heavy pressure from the West and Europe's economic sanctions. But in the meantime Ankara was also feeling betrayed by its Western allies; it was disappointed by the reluctance of the West, which it saw as dragging its feet on finding a solution for Syria. So it was not only a political threat from Putin; President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was sending a warning message to his allies as well. It was a political move by both sides. The truth is, Russia's and Turkey's approach toward Syria was completely opposite and it was not possible for them to entirely trust each other since Turkey is a NATO member, and Russia is...Russia, although they have been improving their economic ties.
But still, both countries started to show signs of serious proceedings in regard to the Turkish Stream in 2015. However, the plans were suspended after Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet which violated Turkish airspace along the border with Syria in Nov. 2015. After this the entire relationship between Moscow and Ankara was frozen. Also, the tensions immediately took on Cold War overtones between NATO and Russia as Moscow rejected Turkey's claim emphasizing that the Russian warplane had strayed into its airspace and Ankara responded by asking for an emergency NATO meeting. NATO declared its solidarity with Turkey but didn't do much to show its support. Instead, Russia and the U.S. came closer in a short while, and two superpowers looked like they reached a tacit agreement on the Syrian civil war and started talks on cooperation regarding the fight against Daish. One Kerry-Lavrov press conference followed another, in which both repeatedly announced that America and Russia were one step closer to reaching a deal to bring peace to Syria.
This week, amid increasingly tense relations between the U.S. and Russia following dozens of Syrian regime soldiers being recently killed in the .U.S-led anti-Daish coalition airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor and a U.N. aid convoy being hit by airstrikes in Aleppo afterwards, Vladimir Putin was in Turkey. Putin and Erdoğan sat together in the front row of the 23rd World Energy Congress held in Istanbul, talking and laughing. Later they met for bilateral talks and announced that they reached an agreement to revive the suspended Turkish Stream among a number of other steps to further improve ties.
In fact, Russia and Turkey took steps to mend ties that soured over the jet incident, but the Gulenist coup attempt on July 15 accelerated the normalization process while changing almost all the previous calculations in the region. After Washington's hesitation to choose the side of democracy that horrible night and its problematic statements in the following days, anti-American sentiment began to rise in Turkish society. Ankara started to keep pushing Washington to extradite the failed coup leader Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the U.S. for more than 15 years, to Turkey, to bring justice to the Turkish people. Washington's reluctance further raised doubts. Ankara has also been harshly criticizing Washington over the U.S.'s unlimited support for the outlawed PKK's Syrian wing Democratic Union Party (PYD). Washington's recent troubles with Ankara were followed by the latest tension with Moscow. The U.S. and Russia lately broke off cooperation over Syria. Now both Turkey's and Russia's relations are at odds.
But there is more than that. It was not only Turkish people who saw the US-led Western countries disappointment over the failure of the July 15 coup attempt. The whole world, including Russia, witnessed that Turkey's best friends chose to stay silent and wait to see the winner on that dark night. It was like the last piece of the puzzle, which was key to understanding what really happened in the last three years between Turkey and its so-called allies. The truth brings trust. So seeing the truth may cement the relations between Ankara and Moscow, and make it stronger than ever. In other words, the recent developments indicate a process beyond normalization between the two. Russia and Turkey have long been considered rivals in natural gas delivery to Europe and have constantly been trying to bypass one another, and now can actually cooperate in this area. That's why the Turkish Stream agreement can be a game changer for Eurasia's fate. However, it is certain that this development is added to the list of developments that do not please the U.S. and as we know Washington is not a city that is just going to sit and watch. Let's see what will happen next?