Turkey: a gas and diplomacy hub thanks to Putin?

At a meeting in Astana, Vladimir Putin suggested to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Turkey become a "gas hub" where Russian gas can be sold on to third countries "above all in Europe". One day later, the Turkish president announced plans to build a transshipment point for Russian gas in cooperation with Moscow.

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Habertürk (TR) /

Putin helping Erdoğan win the elections

The Turkish opposition has warned that Russia will try to influence the 2023 elections in Turkey. It wouldn't even need to carry out covert cyberattacks for that, Habertürk comments:

“Putin, who wants to help Erdoğan win the election, doesn't need to play any complex games in the virtual world to do this. He is already providing as much support as possible by lowering natural gas prices this winter, presenting Erdoğan as an internationally respected player and providing the fresh cash the government needs through new investments.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Not a patent remedy for Russia

The idea of the gas hub is a Turkish election campaign gambit, says Dmitry Drise on Radio Kommersant FM:

“Neither has there been any mention of concrete technical details for the new project nor are Europe's capitals cheering and thanking Erdoğan for freeing them from their cold captivity. It seems that all these statements are mainly aimed at Erdoğan's domestic audience, given that the president has secured cheap fuel primarily for his own country. And especially in view of the fact that elections will be held in Turkey next year. ... But what if he doesn't win the elections and the country changes course? ... Relying on Erdoğan personally is, shall we say, tricky. All the more so because the West is not sitting idly by, but is exerting pressure.”

Artı Gerçek (TR) /

Unrealistic dreams

Artı Gerçek says Turkey still has a long way to go before it becomes a gas hub:

“Moscow would have to rely on LNG or build a new pipeline to transport additional gas to Turkey. ... A rough estimate of the costs puts them at just under 10 billion dollars. ... Who would cover them? This could pose difficulties for the Russian economy, especially because of the drop in the oil prices and the costs of the war. It is also questionable whether anyone would give credit to a country that is excluded from the Swift system and subject to sanctions. And for the Turkish economy this wouldn't be easy either. ... On the contrary, Turkey is currently demanding a debt deferral from Gazprom. Perhaps we should talk more about what is really feasible and less about dreams for three to five years from now, which are likely to be shattered anyway.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

A major opportunity

Ankara should make the most of Turkey's advantageous geographical position, says Yeni Şafak:

“In these days when natural gas has become so important and the whole of Europe is thinking about how to guarantee its supplies, Turkey has a great opportunity. It should not just be a transit country with pipelines running through it. Turkey should not just be a crossroads where countries that have energy resources and countries that consume those resources meet, it should be a hub for natural gas. A hub where natural gas is collected and transferred to other countries, and where the price for this is set.”

Diena (LV) /

The same goods in different packaging

The goal here is to circumvent political hurdles on a grand scale, Diena comments drily:

“Russian liquefied gas will continue to flow to Europe but will change hands in the process so that the deliveries are no longer considered deliveries from Russia. ... Turkey will take care of sales of Russian gas to Europe and, as a matter of courtesy, dilute it a little with supplies from Azerbaijan. Ankara is no doubt interested in such a scenario as there is a considerable difference between simply being the place where Russia trades its gas or being able to trade in Russian gas yourself.”

La Stampa (IT) /

More leeway for blackmail

Does the EU actually realise what's going on? La Stampa wonders:

“Maintaining excellent relations with Nato member Turkey is of crucial importance for Russia because of the sanctions it faces - sanctions that Ankara, we should bear in mind, ignores. That's why Putin praised Erdoğan's reliability in Astana. ... He wanted to make it clear that as soon as the German gas pipelines are replaced by Turkish ones the Europeans - who today stress how they want to emancipate themselves from Russian supplies - will end up paying Erdoğan, which will strengthen the latter's influence on the Old Continent and increase his leeway for blackmail. Leeway that the Turkish president has had since 2015 - since Europe has been paying Turkey to control the flow of migrants across the Balkan route.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Ankara could rise to become a global player

Far-reaching perspectives are opening up for Turkey, Adevărul writes:

“If Turkey succeeds in becoming the most important (and virtually the only) route for the transport of oil and gas from Russia to Europe it will become one of the major global players, with whom Europe will have to enter into new power relations. ... Against this background Turkey can convey to the UN that it is not only a guarantor for the security of wheat transport across the sea but can also ensure that tensions in the energy sector are kept in balance, including the security of the entire pipeline. ... The UN might even be tempted to propose a solution in which Turkey acts as lead negotiator and prepares the next phase: a peace conference.”

Sabah (TR) /

Turkey predestined to play role of mediator

Sabah takes the view that the meeting highlighted Turkey's prominent role in international diplomacy:

“Ankara will look at this proposal [to pipe gas to Europe via Turkey] from an integrated perspective that brings together the various interests of its neighbouring regions. ... The Kremlin's message that if offered the opportunity Putin could meet with Biden at the G20 summit has put the option of diplomacy and the question of mediation by Turkey back on the agenda. ... As the only Nato leader who meets up with Putin, Erdoğan is pursuing a policy that could contribute to a process of reconciliation not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also between the West and Russia.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Pure politics for show

Deutschlandfunk explains what Erdoğan is really after:

“In Turkey there will be presidential and parliamentary elections next year. Erdoğan is demonstrating that he has made Turkey a powerful player on the international stage. And he benefits from Putin's isolation. ... So the meeting in Kazakhstan was pure showcase politics: Putin and Erdoğan at best feigned peace diplomacy in Astana. It's right that the US, the Europeans and Ukraine are not playing along with this. As bitter a pill as it is to swallow, there is no point in negotiations as long as Russia insists on its wartime goal of destroying Ukraine as a state.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

No sign of efforts to secure peace

When it comes to energy everyone seems to be focused on their own interests, laments La Repubblica:

“Energy opportunities have triumphed over diplomatic ambitions. Russian President Vladimir Putin's idea of creating a 'gas hub' in Turkey to export the Federation's gas to Europe was so enticing for Erdoğan that the Turkish leader didn't even mention negotiations with Ukraine in Astana yesterday. ... At a time when Russian supplies to the EU are severely affected by the leaks in the two Nord Stream pipelines and Western sanctions, and when the EU is also considering imposing a cap on gas prices, Turkey would have much to gain from this.”