Calling time on the South Stream pipeline project, Putin announced a new Black Sea pipeline to Turkey instead. The new project could be a competitor to Azerbaijan gas ambitions, but, at the same time, it may require more collaboration in the future.
In reduced economic circumstances the big test for Russia is whether it will be forced to retrench, or whether Vladimir Putin will take his chances on expansionist foreign policy at a moment when there’s less money to go around to combat legitimate threats.
Vladimir Putin’s trip to Turkey could help him recover from the cold-shouldering at the G20 summit in Brisbane, but it will not make Ankara abandon its great strategic goal to become an indispensable supplier of natural gas to Europe and a major competitor for Gazprom.
Turkey sees the acute energy market competition as an opportunity to establish itself both as an influential energy state and as a central Eurasian power. In this regard, choosing Turkmenistan as the site of one of the first state visits by the new Turkish president was not accidental.
The old Soviet “enemies-are-everywhere” mentality frequently leads Russian decision makers to losses and defeat.
Moscow’s most recent, failed attempt to cooperate with China on the Altai gas pipeline shows that its political ambitions are not compatible with elementary arithmetic.
Rather than “replacing” Europe with China in its foreign policy universe, Russia would be wise to develop its relations with Beijing closer to the level of the very thick ties which link it to its Western neighbors.
Ukraine needs more than the current level of Western assistance. But the Ukrainian government also needs to pull its weight, promising (and delivering) transparency.
The only possible source of money for the Power of Siberia pipeline is no one else but China, and the terms of this assistance will be dictated from Beijing. The Kremlin’s inability to come to terms with the Western world does not come cheap.
Russia’s efforts to find an acceptable place for itself in the U.S.-led Western system have ended in a bitter disappointment. The changing trading patterns point to a new era in Moscow’s foreign relations, in which Sino-Russian relations will be taking center stage.