August 17, 2009

Is Russia Turkey’s alternative to the EU? Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Ankara on Aug. 6 marked another major step in the growing relations between Turkey and Russia. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Putin signed some 20 agreements in the fields of energy and trade. Ankara gave its approval to the proposed South Stream gas pipeline from Russia to the European Union under the Black Sea through Turkish territorial waters; Moscow committed Russian crude oil to the planned Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline. The agreements even included some concerning Russian participation in the construction of Turkish nuclear energy plants. Putin also signaled an end to restrictions at Russian customs on Turkish export goods. Moscow attaches great importance to South Stream and Ankara to Nabucco, which will carry Caspian and Central Asian gas to the EU through Turkey, the agreement on which was signed just last month. It is uncertain as to how these two projects, regarded by many as rivals, will affect each other. Some Turkish experts maintain that South Stream is likely to either delay or rule out Nabucco, while others argue that the EU is likely to give priority to the latter. Putin has not, on the other hand, ruled out Russian interest in the Burgas-Alexandropoulos pipeline, regarded by many as a rival to Samsun-Ceyhan, while Russian authorities have expressed doubts about the feasibility of the latter. (Eurasia Daily Monitor, Aug. 7.) Only time will tell which side will gain the most, but it is already clear that economic globalization and interdependence have brought together Turkey and Russia, traditional adversaries until the Cold War’s end. Since then, trade has grown quickly between the two countries. Russia supplies energy to Turkey, and Turkey supplies Russia with many of its required goods and services. Societal relations are also on the rise. Russian have the largest share among tourists visiting Turkey, and among foreigners marrying Turkish men and settling in the country.


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