Eurasian Pipeline Sandwich – Turkey in the Middle

The Eurasian Pipeline Calculus

by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, June 17, 2009

… The Eurasian energy pipeline geopolitics between Turkey Washington and Moscow (are rooted in) the de facto motion of various pipeline projects now underway or in discussion across Eurasia (which) hold the potential to integrate the economic space of Eurasia in a way that poses a fundamental challenge to Washington’s projection of Full Spectrum Dominance over the greatest land mass on earth.

Since at least the time of the Crimean War of 1853, Turkey has played a strategic role in modern Eurasian and European developments. …

After Britain sank into a Great Depression after 1873, Germany’s industrial colossus emerged as the fastest-developing economic power on earth with the possible exception of then fledgling United States. The political and economic fate of Germany and Ottoman Turkey were linked after 1899 with the decision by German industry, Deutsche Bank to build a railway connecting Berlin to the Ottoman Empire … It was a land bridge for trade between Ottoman Turkey and Germany independent of British control of the seas.

A few Eurasian geopolitical basics

… That Berlin-Baghdad Railway linking the fate of Ottoman Turkey to that of Germany was a geopolitically strategic factor in the events which led Britain to the First World War in a failed bid to preserve her global hegemony. Turkey then as today was regarded by powerful Great Powers as a “pivot” state. …

In 1904 a British professor of geography, Sir Halford Mackinder, delivered a lecture before the Royal Geographical Society titled The Geographical Pivot of History, which was to shape a history of two world wars and subsequent wars and power relations. Mackinder, the father of geopolitics—the relation of geography and political economy and power—developed the systematic axiom of British (and American) imperial power. It was simple as it was fateful:

Who rules East Europe (Continental Europe) commands the Heartland (Russia):

Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island (Eurasia):

Who rules the World-Island commands the World.

… The leading postwar foreign policy strategists including Henry Kissinger, were schooled in Mackinders’ ideas. One American disciple of Mackinder, Zbigniew Brzezinski, cited Mackinder’s geopolitical axiom in a 1997 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine where he defined the American strategic priorities in the post-Soviet era:

Eurasia is home to most of the world’s politically assertive and dynamic states…The world’s most populous aspirants to regional hegemony, China and India, are in Eurasia, as are all the potential political or economic challengers to American primacy. After the United States, the next six largest economies and military spenders are there… Eurasia accounts for 75 percent of the world’s population; 60 percent of its GNP, and 75 percent of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia’s potential power overshadows even America’s.

Eurasia is the world’s axial super-continent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world’s three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard…the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy. [1]

That has largely defined US foreign political and military relations with Turkey and the newly emerging former Soviet Republics of Eurasia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. (Often) determined by IMF conditionalities and by military alliances and actions more resembling the Cold War than an era of genuine peace and respect for national sovereignty. Until now the post-Soviet East-West relations have largely been based on a negative construct. …

Eurasia’s Opportunity today

What will define the future for the various nations of Eurasia, especially Turkey, two decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact Cold War structures?

The answer requires some clarity on basic issues. First and most essential is how Turkey and other Eurasian nations define their bilateral and regional relationships. Second, how do they define their relationship with the Atlantic alliance … .

What defines the situation today is a growing realization … that the pillar of the postwar order, the United States has become an increasingly incalculable partner and force in world economic and political affairs. … It’s essential to understand the extent and nature of the current economic and financial crisis of the Dollar System if we are to make any serious calculation of the future.

The crisis … is bringing the United States into a new Great Depression, one that will last at least a decade … far worse than that of the 1930’s. Today the USA is the world’s greatest debtor economy. In 1929 it was the largest creditor. Today the USA public debt is over $11 trillion, growing at the fastest rate in history. The Federal deficit this year is estimated to exceed $1.8 trillion as the Treasury pours money into a bankrupt banking system to try to rescue a collapsing Dollar System. In 1929 US Public Debt was insignificant.

… The trade surplus economies of Asia, above all China are becoming increasingly concerned that the value of their dollar investments in US debt will depreciate as the volume of debt needed continues to soar.

In recent months China has begun exploring alternative investment avenues to replace their dollar investments.  Russia and Brazil … plan to buy $20billion of SDR bonds from the IMF and diversify foreign-currency reserves. Russia …  and China (say they) may reduce reliance on the dollar and US bonds. China today is America’s largest foreign creditor.

This is … the beginning of a global tectonic shift away from a sole financial center to many regional or ‘multipolar’ centers over the next decade. … The Dollar System can’t be put together again, as it was even three years ago. … The consequences for the future of Eurasia are enormous.

(Eurasia) can go one of two ways: Continue the status quo and subordinate national economic decisions to support the Dollar System. That means abiding by the rules of IMF and World Bank austerity. It means abiding by the trade rules of the G7-dominated WTO, even on issues such as GMO seeds which go against national health security. It means to subordinate national security interests to NATO … Those four institutions are at the heart of the 1944 Bretton Woods Dollar System, as I have described in detail in a recent book. …

Emerging Eurasian Economic Space

On the other hand there is second dynamic economic perspective. (Since) the new Obama Administration … has done little … to shift US … policy. …  The various nations across Eurasia are clearly beginning to look to new regional arrangements which could secure export markets, in fact to build new markets. … In the past several years steps to build new markets have become visible across Eurasia. Notable is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). …

From the perspective of geopolitics, the SCO is a natural economic convergence of mutual interests of the republics of Central Asia. SCO founding members include Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Mongolia, India, Pakistan and Iran are observers. … As well the governments of Brazil and India (met) with Russia and China, to discuss mutual economic interests, including energy cooperation.

The Eurasian energy calculus

The future of any economic cooperation among the states of Eurasia, including Turkey, rests on the resolution of vital energy supply issues. Here Eurasia is fortunate to straddle some of the richest energy regions on our planet, in Russia as well as the Caspian Basin state of Kazakhstan and the contiguous Middle East Gulf region. …

Russia brings to the table huge positive resource advantages in terms of its wealth of oil and gas reserves and energy technology no Western country possesses. Given the rapid industrial expansion of China since the beginning of the decade, a natural partnership is emerging linking the economies of Russia, Kazakhstan and China increasingly around energy. The role of pipeline geopolitics in the economic future of Turkey and Eurasia generally is central.

Today the future of competing gas pipelines is at the heart of the Eurasian economic calculus. Here Turkey is in a position to play a central role given its geographic and historical role as a bridge between East and West, North and South—Europe and Eurasia.

One key link through Turkey has been the oil and gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to the port of Ceyhan via Georgia. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline are cited as part of Turkey’s foreign policy strategy to become an energy conduit. BTC has also been a high priority US foreign policy goal to weaken Russian influence over Caspian energy corridors. By itself BTC has limited strategic effect on the regional geopolitical balance. Were it to be coupled with a second project, the much-discussed Nabucco project (Azerbaijan’s natural gas pipeline route to Europe), the impact would definitely be a direct challenge to Russia’s energy role. The EU knows this well, which is why several member states have been less than eager to invest serious sums in Nabucco.

Recent developments in discovery and development of new natural gas reserves in both Azerbaijan and most recently in Turkmenistan in South Yolotan-Osman and Yashlar gas fields, located in the eastern part of the Amudarya River basin, add significant new energy resources to the energy calculus of the emerging Eurasian economic space.

Turkey-Russia cooperation or Turkish-Washington Cooperation?

Turkish-Russian economic ties have greatly expanded over the past decade, with trade volume reaching $32 billion in 2008, making Russia Turkey’s number one partner. Gas and oil imports from Russia account for most of the trade volume.

Turkey and Russia are already connected by the twin Blue Stream natural gas pipelines across the bottom of the Black Sea. …

More importantly, following a March meeting in Ankara between the Turkish Energy Minister and Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, discussions are underway about a Blue Stream-2 project. It would be a new gas pipeline parallel to Blue Stream, in addition to the construction of a gas transportation system in Turkey by expanding Blue Stream to interlink with the proposed Samsun-Ceyhan line, with a spur line under the Mediterranean to Ashkelon in Israel.

Russia’s Prime Minister Putin has also said he was counting on the support of Israel in the construction of a new oil pipeline via Turkey and Israel. The pipeline would link to the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline, to be constructed across the Red and Mediterranean seas.

For Turkey, which currently imports 90 % of its energy, the projects would provide increased energy security and, in the case of the Samsun-Ceyhan-Ashkelon pipeline, generate significant transit revenues.

Discussions are also underway on possibly extending Turkey’s gas lines across its Thracian territory to supply neighbouring Balkan nations Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary. In such an event, Moscow would have gained a prime goal of lessening its dependency on the Ukrainian pipeline network for transit.

Russia also won a tender for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant recently, though final resolution is unclear at this time. Russia’s market also plays a major role for Turkish overseas investments and exports. Russia is one of the main customers for Turkish construction firms and a major destination for Turkish exports. Similarly, millions of Russian tourists bring significant revenues to Turkey every year. Importantly, Turkey and Russia may start to use the Turkish lira and the Russian ruble in foreign trade, which could increase Turkish exports to Russia. … Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is seen by both now as essential to regional peace and stability. …

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently commended Turkey’s actions during the Russian-Georgian war of last summer, and Turkey’s subsequent proposal for the establishment of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform (CSCP). …

Russia’s aim is clearly to … counter what it sees as a growing NATO encirclement, made dramatic by the Washington decision to place missile and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, as they see it, aimed at Moscow. To date the Obama Administration has indicated it will continue the Bush ‘missile defense’ policy. Washington also just agreed to place US Patriot missiles in Poland, clearly not aimed at Germany.

If Ankara moves towards closer collaboration with Russia, Georgia’s position is precarious and Azerbaijan’s natural gas pipeline route to Europe, the 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.

The strategy for Washington to bring Germany into closer cooperation with the US is to weaken German dependence on Russian energy flows. (The Nabucco pipeline) would potentially lessen EU dependence on Russian gas.

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 decides to cooperate with Russia, Russia retains the initiative. 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.

A Washington Great Game?

Turkish membership into the EU (is) vehemently opposed by France and also less openly so by Germany (but) strongly backed by Washington. …

Obama’s backing for Turkey’s application for EU membership comes with a heavy price. (A Turkish) agreement with Armenia including diplomatic relations.

A Turkish accord with Armenia would change the balance of power in the entire region. Since the August 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict the Caucasus, … Russian troops remain in South Ossetia (and) Armenia meaning Russia has Georgia surrounded. …

If Turkey decides to collaborate with Russia Georgia’s position becomes insecure and Azerbaijan’s possible pipeline route to Europe is blocked. If Turkey decides to cooperate with Washington and … Armenia … Russia’s entire position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe becomes available, reducing Russian leverage with Western Europe.

This past March a memorandum was signed between the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR and Russia’s Gazprom for major deliveries of Azerbaijan natural gas to Russia by January 2010.

Azerbaijan is the only state outside Iran that would likely supply gas to the planned EU Nabucco pipeline from Azerbaijan through Turkey to south-eastern Europe. Russia has proposed South Stream as an alternative to the Nabucco project, also in need of Azerbaijan gas, so in effect Russia weakens the chances of realization of Nabucco.

In this Eurasian pipeline and economic diplomacy, clear is that Turkey and the other nations of Eurasia are grappling with new possible economic arrangements which will have profound impact on the future of the world economy. The EU as a body is at present clearly frozen in the dynamic of the old post-1945 Bretton Woods order. Initiative is unlikely to come from Brussels for a dynamic economic growth in Turkey or Eurasia generally. Interestingly, Eurasia is becoming the growth locomotive for the EU … and a fascinating opportunity… . Ultimately, as well, a vibrant growing Eurasian economic space would be in the best long-term interest of the United States in a multi-polar world.

1. Brzezinski, Zbigniew, A Geostrategy for Eurasia, Foreign Affairs, 76:5, September/October 1997. F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be reached via his website

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Biding my time in central ms ... yours too, if ur reading this.
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