The war in Ukraine profoundly changed the European energy structure.
The European sanctions as well as Russia's response effectively destroyed an energy partnership that began in the 1970s and survived the Cold War.
President Putin believed in Europe's great dependence on Russia, but was wrong all along.
Russian gas exports to Europe have dropped to pre-2000 levels, and in 2024 the European Union may completely get rid of Russian supplies.
The oil embargo imposed by the Union about a month ago will disrupt oil deliveries already this year.
This change is not cheap: according to some estimates, achieving the EU's energy independence from Russia cost about half a trillion euros, but Russia's exit from the European market (as well as from the community of respected global powers) seems final.
However, while Europe is becoming more dependent on the gas supply from Norway, Libya, Qatar and the USA, a new player that was not taken into account is emerging on the sidelines - Turkey. President Erdogan aims to obtain for his country a special status of the one that unites the supply routes that connect Europe with the gas producers, new and old.
Dancing at both weddings
On the one hand, Erdogan has a love-hate relationship with Moscow, as an ally of both Russia and Ukraine: he organizes "wheat agreements" and provides the largest channel for the unauthorized import of Western products.
The biggest coupon he can cut is the construction of a massive natural gas well in the European part of Turkey;
From it, the Russian gas, which flows through the BlueStream and TurkStream pipelines, as well as from another pipeline that is being planned, will be transported to Southern Europe as well as to Austria and Germany.
During the last visit to Turkey by the CEO of Gazprom, Alexey Miller, the capacity of the pipeline was estimated at 60 billion cubic meters per year. This means that potentially, the volume of gas passing through Turkey may reach 115 billion cubic meters per year.
Erdogan // Photo: AFP
When you take into account Turkey's ambition to become one of the largest owners of Russian oil in order to sell it to Europe already as oil products, which are not under sanctions, Erdogan may become the main agent of Russian energy resources as early as next year (of course, if he wins the presidential election).
This means not only the defeat of Putin in his bold "energy game" in Europe, but also a victory of Erdogan in this game.
This victory could lead to a dramatic increase in Turkey's geopolitical influence.
The Cypriot card
On the other hand, the Turks are running a "big game" in Central Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.
First, Ankara appears to be behind the failure of the "triple gas alliance" proposed by Putin for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Partnering with Azerbaijan and Georgia, Turkey aims to increase the capacity of trans-Caucasian routes, while Russia squeezes Kazakh oil producers by arbitrarily closing the Caspian Sea pipeline, which allows Kazakh companies to flow their output to the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.
An oil facility in the Mengystau district of Kazakhstan, photo: Reuters
Secondly, the Turkish authorities are building on potential oil and gas deposits off its southern coast (only recently a new deposit was discovered there) and off the northern coast of Cyprus, where Ankara has been trying to start drilling since 2019. If Nikos Christodoulides, the Kremlin's preferred candidate who is currently leading in the polls, becomes the president of Cyprus Next month - the hawkish parties that support him are not expected to be inclined to a compromise with Turkey, and therefore the victory will reduce the chances of the international attempt to find a solution.
In this way, Ankara may move forward with the deposit inspections unilaterally, while implementing its plan for a two-state solution in Cyprus or even annexing the occupied part of the island.
Getting closer to Israel
Thirdly, it should be remembered that Turkey is now renewing its diplomatic relations with Israel, after the meeting between Erdogan and then Prime Minister Lapid in September in New York.
Ankara aims to work together with Israel and Lebanon in producing natural gas from the large fields off the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Erdogan and Lapid at a political meeting.
The United States (archive), photo: Avi Ohion, L.A.M
True, Turkey's ambitions may not materialize - but Ankara seems to be betting on the effort to become a major gas supplier to Europe.
If this happens, the European Union may once again receive its gas supply from the "nearest neighbor", while American and Middle Eastern producers turn to the nations of Asia and the Pacific Rim.
In conclusion, while Russia appears to be a declining power, humiliated by its failures in Ukraine, Turkey is emerging both as the leader of the Islamic world and as a power in the Middle East - and a strong and strengthening autocrat could become an even more problematic partner than a weakened and aging autocrat.
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