Russian President Vladimir Putin may have announced that the proposed South Stream gas pipeline is dead, but it would seem this has given him a good opportunity to widen the growing rift between the EU and Turkey.
Work on the 930-kilometer (580-mile) South Stream project was started October 2013 but was suspended in June after the European Commission said it might be breaking EU competition rules. The pipeline was to be partially funded, owned and wholly operated by Russia’s Gazprom and the reality is the EU is increasingly nervous about tying Europe any closer to the Russian monopoly supplier than it already is. Critics say with northern states safe with the already operating North Stream pipeline, they can afford to make an example of Moscow in the current climate over a project that would have favored the southern and Baltic states for supply security and transit fees.
Not to be outdone, though, Russia is using the cancellation to build bridges with Turkey and add encouragement for the increasingly important former EU ally to build alliances with Eurasia rather than the EU. Turkey has all but given up on EU membership after years of Brussels hand-wringing and prevarication.
A new regime in Ankara is increasingly critical of the west and pro-Islam. This move by Russia, if successful, will likely put an end to the proposed Qatar to Europe gas pipeline that was advertised as a way to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russia and secure its future energy needs. The pipeline would have run through Turkey and served it, as well as continuing north into Central Europe. If Turkey goes ahead with the Russian-Turkish gas hub, the country will no longer have any need for the Qatari pipeline and the deal will probably be dead before it begins.