Washington, Brussels Set Sights on TurkStream Pipeline Amid Crackdown on Ankara-Moscow Cooperation 

By Conor Gallagher

At the beginning of this year there were four pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe, and a fifth (Nord Stream 2) was about to come online. Now Nord Stream 1 and 2 are dead, the Yamal Pipeline is closed, and the amount of gas flowing through Ukraine is greatly diminished.

That leaves theTurkStream pipeline, which transports natural gas from Russia to Turkey and then onto southeastern Europe, and it’s in the crosshairs.

South Stream Transport B.V., a Netherlands-based subsidiary of Gazprom that operates the Black Sea portion of TurkStream, said the Netherlands withdrew its export license on September 18 amid wider sanctions from the European Union. South Stream Transport applied for a new license but it doesn’t know if it will receive it.

Now South Stream plans to “suspend the execution of all contracts related to the technical support of the gas pipeline, including design, manufacture, assembly, testing, repair, maintenance and training” due to the sanctions.

That means that “no one will be able to carry out repairs if a pipe is damaged, gas leaks, or if a part of the pipeline comes apart due to an earthquake.”

The news comes on the heels of Moscow’s claim that it foiled an attack on TurkStream. And Washington luminaries are now homing in on the pipeline.

MIchael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute writes that “Biden should kill TurkStream to promote transatlantic energy security.”

Former CIA director and known perjurer John Brennan is very concerned about all pipelines bringing natural gas to Europe:

TurkStream was launched in 2020 as part of Russia’s efforts to diversify its export routes away from Ukraine. It  has the capacity to deliver 31.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year with half of it destined for Turkey and the other half for the Balkans and Central Europe.

Strangely enough, the Blue Stream pipeline that brings gas from Russia to Turkey, but not onto Europe, has yet to come under the same scrutiny as TurkStream.

Southeastern Europe Gas Infrastructure. Source: Congressional Research Service

The main European customers of TurkStream natural gas are Serbia and Hungary – the former is an ally of Moscow, and the latter is the most outspoken member of the EU against Russian sanctions.

Other countries, like Austria and Slovakia, also receive gas from TurkStream via Hungary.

Milos Zdravkovic, who heads the department of energy management at Public Enterprise Road of Serbia, told Serbian Monitor that TurkStream would be more difficult to attack than Nord Stream because “it is under Russian and Turkish control, and it is much more difficult to carry out a terrorist attack since this pipeline lies very deep on the seabed.”

Still, countries who rely on TurkStream are recognizing the threat. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on September 28 that increased attention must be paid to the safety of the TurkStream in order to avoid a fate similar to Nord Streams 1 and 2.

Bulgaria just opened a pipeline connector to the Trans-Adriatic pipeline in Greece, which supplies natural gas from Azerbaijan and reduces Sofia’s reliance onTurkStream.

Greece’s biggest gas utility just completed a deal with Total Energies for LNG deliveries in the event gas flows from TurkStream are curbed or halted.

TurkStream came about after the US and EU effectively killed the Russia-Bulgaria South Stream pipeline back in 2014. The project would have transported Russian gas under the Black Sea, making landfall in Bulgaria and then passing through Serbia and Hungary into Austria.

Instead Russia pivoted to Turkey and opened TurkStream at the beginning of 2020 despite US sanctions on companies involved in the construction of the pipeline.

Additionally the US helped kill the EastMed Pipeline which would have brought natural gas from deposits off Israel and Egypt to Greece and elsewhere in Europe via Cyprus. US Undersecretary of State Victoria “F*** the EU” Nuland said at the time that it would take too long and the solution instead was increased LNG shipments to Europe.

Russia supplied about half of Turkey’s natural gas purchases last year, and at an August summit in Sochi Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to begin gradually paying for Russian imports with rubles.

Doing so would avoid the dollar and would protect the Turkish economy from its diminishing hard currency reserves. The Turkish lira is down approximately 27 percent against the dollar this year.

The loss of TurkStream would have devastating consequences for a Turkish economy already in freefall.

Turkey would be left scrambling for natural gas supplies like the rest of Europe, and it would damage Turkish industry exports, which Erdogan is committed to boosting by lowering borrowing costs. He continues to go against the economic grain by lowering interest rates. In September consumer prices were up annually by 83 percent, and the domestic producer price index was up 152 percent year on year.

Turkey’s deficit was at $4 billion for July bringing it up to $36.6 billion for the year. And the foreign trade deficit was at $10.7 billion in July. The increasing import bill – especially energy – played a large role in the figure.

Without TurkStream, Ankara would also lose undisclosed monthly amounts to the Turkish treasury in transit fees for every cubic meter transferred.

Turkey is now requesting that Russia delay its gas payments until 2024. Any economic boost Erdogan can find could help him next year in what’s shaping up to be his toughest reelection fight yet.

In an effort to improve the economy, Turkey has taken advantage of the Ukraine conflict and continues to pursue a foreign policy of “strategic autonomy.”

Washington, however, is determined to end Turkish economic cooperation with Russia and wouldn’t mind seeing Erdogan replaced next year with a leader who takes their marching orders from NATO.

In August the US Treasury Department threatened secondary sanctions on Turkish financial institutions for processing the Russian Mir payment system.

On September 19 Turkey’s two largest private banks quit accepting Mir; now three state-owned banks are following suit following what the Kremlin called “unprecedented pressure.”

The moves will likely be a blow to Turkey’s tourism industry, which was seeing a major uptick in the number of Russians visiting the country. Turkey, as the only member of NATO not to apply sanctions on Russia, had  2.2 million Russians visit (an increase of 600,000) over the first seven months of 2022.

The US is also abandoning its neutral stance on the longstanding rivalry between Turkey and Greece and funneling weapons to Athens, which is escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

In September Greece received its first two F-16 military jets from the US as part of a $1.5 billion program to upgrade the Greek fleet. Ankara, which is excluded from the US F-35 program for buying Russian S-400 air defense systems, is worried that in time Greece could have a stronger air force than Turkey.

The US is also ramping up its control over Greece’s Alexandroupolis port in the northeast of the country 18 miles from the Turkish border and using it as an entry point for supplies to Ukraine. From El Pais:

Over the last three years, the United States and Greece have signed agreements to strengthen their defense cooperation and guarantee “unlimited access” to a series of Hellenic military bases. Among these is a Greek Armed Forces installation in Alexandroupolis. Since this collaboration began, the port has experienced unusually high traffic of military ships, so much so that, when 1,500 Marines from the USS Arlington docked in May, the city’s 57,000 inhabitants faced shortages of some products, such as eggs and tobacco.

US military officials have proposed deepening and expanding the port with in order to accomodate US Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The US decision to make a fortress out of Alexandroupolis came after Turkey’s decision to close the Turkish straits to all warships after the war in Ukraine began, including its NATO partners who wanted to send weapons to Ukraine via the straits.The move was well within Ankara’s rights under the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, and Turkey’s adherence to the agreement has been credited in not making the Ukraine conflict even worse.

The US pressure on Turkey via Greece doesn’t stop with Alexandroupolis. Turkish drones recorded Greece deploying US-donated armored vehicles on the islands of Lesbos and Samos, which is in violation of international law.

Turkey lodged a protest with the United States and Greece over the deployments, and in a thinly-veiled dig at Washington, Erdogan recently said “we are well aware of the real intentions of those who provoked and unleashed Greek politicians against us.”

Hasan Koni, a scholar on strategic studies at Istanbul Kultur University, told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency the US moves in Greece are meant to send a message to Erdogan:

The American security apparatus has also recognized that the balance of power in the region is shifting toward Turkey and needs to be “checked by empowering Greece,” he said, adding that Washington’s push for more Greek bases is aimed at “containing Turkey.”

Historically, the US played a buffer role between Turkey and Greece and de-escalated tensions. No more.

The same is happening in Cyprus, which is split between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus in the north, which is recognized only by Ankara.

In September the Biden administration lifted the 35-year-old ban on the sale of US arms to the Republic of Cyprus. Congress restricted the sale of U.S. arms to Cyprus in 1987, hoping it would incentivize a diplomatic settlement to the island’s conflict.

Cyprus was required to block Russian naval vessels from accessing its ports in order to get the US arms sale ban lifted.

Turkey already has about 40,000 troops on the island, and Erdogan recently declared plans to reinforce them with land, naval and aerial weapons, ammunition and vehicles.

Offshore gas fields discovered in the early 2000s further complicated the territorial dispute on Cyprus. The global energy crisis following the West’s war on Russia raised the stakes. And Washington taking advantage of the situation to pressure Turkey adds fuel to the fire.

Cyprus foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides fears that Cyprus could be dragged into the Turkish-Greek conflict. In a September 26 interview with Bloomberg TV he said,  “The Turkish army is stationed on our island and we fear that any conflict in the Aegean Sea will affect us directly because we’ll be used as the weakest link in the whole story.”

Kasoulides must understand all too well the word of Victoria Nuland, who earlier this year at the opening of a US-funded training and cybersecurity facility on the island, said the security relationship between the US and Cyprus is now “irreversible.”

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  1. digi_owl

    I can’t help wonder if the whole Syria mess was because Assad denied any pipeline to pass through there that could connect Iraq and SA to Europe, in order to play nice with Russia. Sure, going via the Kurdish territories could be an option, but nobody but the Kurdish would accept that.

    1. vao

      Actually, there were two pipeline projects: one starting in Qatar, crossing Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and ending in Turkey; the other starting in Iran, crossing Iraq, Syria, and ending in Turkey. Assad preferred the latter project — to the great displeasure of the USA.

      Did anybody notice how many oil and gas pipelines from Europe, the Caucasus and the Near East end up in Turkey? It is a key geopolitical player, but the USA and the EU seem really intent on irritating Turkey — for what reason?

      Then there was the TAPI pipeline, linking Turkmenistan with Pakistan and India, through Afghanistan, where two competing projects (again) were put to the approval of the first Taliban regime. The Taliban preferred the one from an Argentinian company over the one from consortium lead by UNOCAL — to the great displeasure of the USA.

      As we know, the USA was also greatly displeased by Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2.

      By the way: the title is “Washington, Brussels Set Sights on TurkStream Pipeline Amid Crackdown on Ankara-Moscow Cooperation”, but the article does not explain the role of the EU Commission in the Turk Stream affair.

      1. digi_owl

        Because Istanbul is Europe’s land bridge to the world.

        Place has been the world trade hub for eternity.

        1. vao

          Indeed, which to me makes the bullying attitude by the USA and the EU all the more incomprehensible. Don’t they really understand how important Turkey is?

          1. digi_owl

            They understand it, but think they have turkey by the proverbial balls.

            Or thought they had, until Erdogan started shifting towards Russia.

      2. Conor Gallagher Post author

        “South Stream Transport B.V., a Netherlands-based subsidiary of Gazprom that operates the Black Sea portion of TurkStream, said the Netherlands withdrew its export license on September 18 amid wider sanctions from the European Union. South Stream Transport applied for a new license but it doesn’t know if it will receive it.”

        A junior role, but a role nonetheless.

        1. vao

          That is an indirect role: EU sanctions cause the Dutch government to rescind an export permit. From the title, I was expecting a direct involvement of the EU, explicitly targeting the Turk Stream.

        2. Yves Smith

          The second quoted remark about suspending contracts shortly suggests SST could not transfer its maintenance contract. But I don’t see a legal impediment to Gazprom parent entering into a backup maintenance contract that kicks in based on non-performance on the original maintenance agreement….provided they could find a non-sanctioned party to do the work.

          I have a funny feeling Iran would have companies with adequate competence.

          1. Dave in Austin

            Probably correct. But as long as the EU is willing to apply muscle to Bulgaria, the gas still can’t get to Serbia and Hungary. I don’t know the capacity of the two pipelines from Russia to Turkey so I can’t tell if the gas from the banned pipeline can be used domestically by Turkey.

            For months I’ve thought this whole situation looked like the old board game of Rail Barons but with the goal of limiting access not expanding networks.

        1. Mike

          Yes… the “other side” of the lead up to WW1. Those dang Huns should have just not bayoneted so many babies!

          Nothing changes just the players it seems.

    2. Christophe DOUTE

      That was indeed one reason that was mentioned by serious analysts (Thierry Meyssan being one of them, I believe) at the time for this assault on Syria. Other obvious motives were to get djihadism established closer to Russia, a djihadist-ruled Syria would have helped to sow trouble in Southern Russia, and indeed in the whole region. Another motive is Assad’s partnership with Russia, his excessive independence from “the West”. Plus, Syria would have been turned into another Lybia, a hellhole of warring militias, which could only have pleased Israel (remember it’s all been about breaking strong Middle Eastern states in the last few decades). Who knows what other dirty motive.

  2. Kilgore Trout

    It is impossible to overstate the malevolence of the US in the present moment. The Neo-cons driving foreign policy are mad—drunk with power that they imagine they possess to control the outcomes of the burgeoning crises they created. Are there no sober voices who can rein in these sociopaths?

    1. Screwball

      Looks to me like the founders of PNAC would be quite proud of this current bunch. And why can’t John Brennan just go away. Give him a rifle and send him to Ukraine.

    2. Bart Hansen

      Some time ago my country entered a prolonged period of wilding; thrashing about in all directions.

      For a while we were taking out one country at a time, maybe two or three, but now we are going after all of Europe.

    3. Tom Denman

      “The Neo-cons driving foreign policy…imagine they possess to control the outcomes of the burgeoning crises they created.”

      After all these years I am still amazed by the neocons’ boundless capacity for hallucination. Jargon like “full spectrum dominance,” Hillary Clinton’s strategy for “shaping conditions overseas” and the G.W. Bush aide’s casual declaration that “when we act, we create our own reality” show how deeply neoconservatives have been immersed in self-delusion for decades. [1][2]

      When it comes to raging cases of collective infantile omnipotence this is one for the ages. Though I fear that the we won’t live for more than a few minutes to rue the neocon begotten “end of history.”

      [1] http://web.archive.org/web/20150215123522/http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/02/13/clinton-consults-experts-to-chart-foreign-policy-agenda/

      [2] http://web.archive.org/web/20150818131950/https://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/faith-certainty-and-the-presidency-of-george-w-bush.html

  3. Oh

    John Brennan, the war monger and shadow government figure makes accusations without any proof. CNN will give him publicity for his outrageous accusations. The US is not any kind of democracy.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Hard to believe that Washington would attempt to do the same to this pipeline but then again I never expected them to be idiotic enough to do it to NS1 & NS2. In this part of the world, Turkey is the linchpin in this region and if that pipeline was blown, Turkey would not just sit down and take it. Not only does a lot of their oil come from Russia but a lot of their food comes from Russia as well. Given a choice, they could sooner do without the US/EU before they could Russia. I doubt that any NATO country on the Black sea coastline would cooperate with such a project. The Ukrainians would but they have no units that could be put to see. And any US ships have to sail through the Bosporus and would be watched like a hawk by both turkey and Russia. if I were Russia I would let it be known in DC that if anything happened to that pipeline, that something might happen to a transatlantic cable or two as two can play that game.

    1. Wyatt Powell

      I doubt any NATO country on the Black Sea Coastline would cooperate with such a project

      Well there is only 2 (sans Turkiye) right? And because of that I would have to disagree with you Revered.

      Bulgaria seems to be a fly in NATOs ointment right now. Probably 3rd behind Turkiye and Hungary.

      But Romania? Their security services are dead set on capitalizing on the dismemberment of Ukraine. They want Bugeac and Cernăuți. Which makes “Reunion” all the easier… if it doesn’t come first!

      Supply a force directly for a sabotage mission? Hmm maybe not… allowing the Empire to use her coast as a launching point? I have little doubt

      Ill be shocked if “Moldova” exists as a separate entity by 2030. It shouldn’t already. Its a rump state. And as much I like the buffer zones between the Nuclear powers… the border in the Baltics is far for worrisome than a border in the Balkans/Besserbia would be. And if Im wrong and the border doesnt move there will already be a NATO/CIS border between Russia and Romanian anyway.

      Personally I think Sandu (who is Romanian by the way!!) and Iohannis should quit dancing around the issue and just declare Reunion already.

      1. Kouros

        What about the intsi bit of Transnistria, which historically was Russian (not Ukrainian) territory…?

        And Romania danced around the issue of Reunification for more than 30 years now. Why stop now? The public sentiment about the issue is kind of Meh!?

        One in Romania will always consider the story of Old Man John, when asked about the union of Moldavian Principalities and shown how a big weight can be lifted easier if people are joining forces.

        Old John quipped that he has not seen any boyar rushing to do any lifting…. Romanian political class is notoriously incompetent, corrupt. A 19th century novel, “The old and new hawks” by Nicolae Filimon does the proper depiction, while Caragiale satirizes to death such characters. The Socialist interlude, including Ceausescu, was in fact a breath of fresh air, a respite in the continuous cesspit of bad characters that try to vie for leadership there…

        The population knows all this in their bones and acts accordingly.

  5. jo6pac

    The greeks are becoming the new ukraine as they get thrown under the wheels of the Amerikan war machine. How Sad

    1. lyman alpha blob

      The Greek government may be cowed, but the Greek people have no love for the US and still remember the US sponsored junta. It’s been a while so attitudes may have changed, but from my travels there in the 90s and early aughts, the Greek people do know how to throw a wrench in the works when needed. The day they told the fascists to pound sand in WWII is still a national holiday, and there was that austerity referendum that the public soundly rejected before being overruled by the Troika technocrats. I’d imagine that more recent event doesn’t sit well with many.

      It would be very interesting though to find out what Greek factions the US is working with. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find out Golden Dawn is involved.

    2. Wyatt Powell

      As it pertains to Article 5 of the mafia security racket known as NATO… what happens if two NATO countries attack one another?

      Does the “Alliance” get to pick sides? Obviously the greek side im no fool, Turkiye is the odd ball. Only in the Alliance because of the Soveit Union (which was the whole point of NATO no? One wonders why Turkiye didnt split in the 90s?)

      1. Christophe DOUTE

        By staying in NATO, Turkey can play both sides, can get benefits from both sides (NATO and Russia). This is the sort of clever game Erdogan likes to play, apparently, and he does it with some success. Turkey has the size and the geopolitical significance to be able to play its own game, and why shouldn’t it?

        What is not good about Erdogan is how he supports Islamist radicalism, most definitely including the head-choppers, as he did and still does in Syria and really all over the place, including in Germany. This is where he should really be stopped. He also uses Islam for his own purposes inside Turkey. I wonder what the Turks think about that.

  6. Mikel

    “Russia will attack other Russian pipelines soon” says John Brennan.

    Because that makes more sense than just saying “Hey, Ivan and Dmitry, go make sure the pump is turned off on this end.”

    They act like people can’t imagine that Turkey and Russia actually talk to each other.

  7. Wyatt Powell

    As it pertains to Article 5 of the mafia security racket known as NATO… what happens if two NATO countries attack one another?

    Does the “Alliance” get to pick sides? Obviously the greek side im no fool, Turkiye is the odd ball. Only in the Alliance because of the Soveit Union (which was the whole point of NATO no? One wonders why Turkiye didnt split in the 90s?)

  8. Altandmain

    For Turkey, they don’t have any alternative to Russian energy. Anything else would be economically devastating. The US doesn’t actually care about whatever harm this is going to do for Turkey.

    The sad part about this is that being a poodle for the US is likely to be harmful to the interests of the ordinary citizens of Greece and Cyprus.

    It’s not like this US meddling is going to help improve the standards of living for ordinary people, quite possibly the opposite and this will worsen the Greek / Turkish tensions. Worse, it could start a new war.

    Ultimately, Washington’s desire to maintain hegemony is causing a bad situation to be worse.

  9. ThirtyOne

    This bears repeating, I think:

    During the past few months, we saw a case of a not-so-friendly interaction aimed at expelling Russia from the natural gas market in Europe. The war in Ukraine is mostly a sideshow: the real thing is the market of natural gas, and the critical point was the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline. Whoever did it, sent a clear message to everybody, not unlike placing the severed head of a horse in someone’s bed: the European gas market is now the turf of another mafia family.


    1. John R Moffett

      It is clearly another blood for oil/gas situation. The unavoidable conclusion is that the very wealthy and their corporations now control our fate in every way,; instigating wars pitting nuclear adversaries against each other over the very resources that are forcing climate change.

  10. ACPAL

    “It’s not like this US meddling is going to help improve the standards of living for ordinary people, quite possibly the opposite and this will worsen the Greek / Turkish tensions. Worse, it could start a new war.” – Altandmain, Oct 5

    IMNSHO the US isn’t just meddling, it’s reshaping the world. It’s doing a great job of keeping mainland USA out of the fighting while ruling the willing and crushing the rest of the world by getting them to fight each other, ruining their economy, hacking their computers, contracting out assassinations, fomenting coups, and a host of other nefarious tricks.

    To understand the US’s goals you have to think big, as in global domination and the US has a vast array of tools and techniques to use in doing that. If they want to stop a pipeline or change a government they will.

  11. Vesa

    It is so mindboggling to see how the people do not see that they are being used by evil empire. Does the humankind even has a right to exist when majority of it is so stupid. The only thing that would be positive in the WW3 is that the US would be destroyed as well.

  12. Mark A Oglesby

    Is there not a viler nation in the history of the world than The United States of America?

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