Σάββατο, 29 Μαΐου 2010

War, Oil and Gas Pipelines: Turkey is Washington’s Geopolitical Pivot











The recent visit of US President Obama to Turkey was far more significant than the President’s speech would suggest. For Washington Turkey today has become a geopolitical “pivot state” which is in the position to tilt the Eurasian power equation towards Washington or significantly away from it depending on how Turkey develops its ties with Moscow and its role regarding key energy pipelines.

If Ankara decides to collaborate more closely with Russia, Georgia's position is precarious and Azerbaijan's natural gas pipeline route to Europe, the so-called Nabucco Pipeline, is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under US auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.

For Washington the key to bringing Germany into closer cooperation with the US is to weaken German dependence on Russian energy flows. Twice in the past three winters Washington has covertly incited its hand-picked President in Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko to arrange an arbitrary cut off of Russian gas flows to Germany and other EU destinations. The only purpose of the actions was to convince EU governments that Russia was not a reliable energy partner. Now, with the Obama visit to Ankara, Washington is attempting to win Turkish support for its troubled Nabucco alternative gas pipeline through Turkey from Azerbaijan which would theoretically at least lessen EU dependence on Russian gas.

The Turkish-EU problem

However willing Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan might be to accommodate Obama, the question of Turkish relations with the EU is inextricably linked with the troublesome issue of Turkish membership to the EU, a move vehemently opposed by France and also less openly by Germany.

Turkey is one of the only routes energy from new sources can cross to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey — which has considerable influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans — is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and German ties to Russia weaken considerably. If Turkey decides to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is dependent on Russian energy. Since it became clear in Moscow that US strategy was to extend NATO to Russia’s front door via Ukraine and Georgia, Russia has moved to use its economic “carrot” its vast natural gas resources, to at the very least neutralize Western Europe, especially Germany, towards Russia. It is notable in that regard that the man chosen as Russia’s President in December 1999 had spent a significant part of his KGB career in Germany.

Turkey and the US Game

It is becoming clear that Obama and Washington are playing a deeper game. A few weeks before the meetings, when it had become obvious that the Europeans were not going to bend on the issues such as troops for Afghanistan or more economic stimulus that concerned the United States, Obama scheduled the trip to Turkey.

During the recent EU meetings in Prague Obama actively backed Turkey’s application for EU membership knowing well that that put especially France and Germany in a difficult position as EU membership would allow free migration which many EU countries fear. Obama deliberately confronted EU states with this knowing he was playing with geopolitical fire, especially as the US is no member of the EU. It was a deliberate and cheap way to score points with the Erdogan government of Turkey.

During the NATO meeting, a key item on the agenda was the selection of a new alliance secretary-general. The favorite was former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Turkey opposed him because of his defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish magazine. NATO operates on consensus, so any one member can block Rasmussen. The Turks backed off the veto, and in return won two key positions in NATO, including that of deputy secretary-general.

Turkey thereby boosted its standing in NATO, got Obama to vigorously defend the Turkish application for membership in the European Union, which of course the United States does not belong to. Obama then went to Turkey for a key international meeting that will allow him to further position the United States in relation to Islam.

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