How can Putin waltz into Ankara, scribble his name on a few sheets of paper, and abscond with a key US ally right under Washington’s nose?
Mike Whitney (Counterpunch), December 8, 2014
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin clinched a groundbreaking deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that will strengthen economic ties between the two nations and make Turkey the major hub for Russian gas in the region. Under the terms of the agreement, Russia will pump additional natural gas to locations in central Turkey and to a “hub at the Turkish-Greek border” which will eventually provide Putin with backdoor access to the lucrative EU market, although Turkey will serve as the critical intermediary. The move creates a de facto Russo-Turkey alliance that could shift the regional balance of power decisively in Moscow’s favor, thus creating another formidable hurtle for Washington’s “pivot to Asia” strategy. While the media is characterizing the change in plans (Putin has abandoned the South Stream pipeline project that would have transported gas to southern Europe) as a “diplomatic defeat” for Russia, the opposite appears to be the case. Putin has once again outmaneuvered the US on both the energy and geopolitical fronts adding to his long list of policy triumphs. Here’s a brief summary from Andrew Korybko at Sputnik News:
“Russia has abandoned the troubled South Stream project and will now be building its replacement with Turkey. This monumental decision signals that Ankara has made its choice to reject Euro-Atlanticsm and embrace Eurasian integration.
In what may possibly be the biggest move towards multipolarity thus far,..Turkey, has done away with its former Euro-Atlantic ambitions. A year ago, none of this would have been foreseeable, but the absolute failure of the US’ Mideast policy and the EU’s energy one made this stunning reversal possible in under a year. Turkey is still anticipated to have some privileged relations with the West, but the entire nature of the relationship has forever changed as the country officially engages in pragmatic multipolarity.
Turkey’s leadership made a major move by sealing such a colossal deal with Russia in such a sensitive political environment, and the old friendship can never be restored…The reverberations are truly global.” (“Cold Turkey: Ankara Buckles Against Western Pressure, Turns to Russia”, Sputnik News)
Korybko seems to be alone in grasping the magnitude of what happened in Ankara on Monday, although –judging by the Obama administration’s silence on the topic–the gravity of the transaction is beginning to sink in. Grandmaster Vlad’s latest move has caught US powerbrokers flat-footed and left them speechless. This is a scenario that no one had anticipated and, if it’s not handled correctly, could turn out to be a real nightmare. Here’s more on Monday’s press conference from Russia Today:
“Putin said that Russia is ready to build a new pipeline to meet Turkey’s growing gas demand, which may include a special hub on the Turkish-Greek border for customers in southern Europe.
For now, the supply of Russian gas to Turkey will be raised by 3 billion cubic meters via the already operating Blue Stream pipeline…Moscow will also reduce the gas price for Turkish customers by 6 percent from January 1, 2015, Putin said.
“We are ready to further reduce gas prices along with the implementation of our joint large-scale projects,” he added.” (“Putin: Russia forced to withdraw from S. Stream project due to EU stance”, RT)
How can this happen? How can Putin waltz into Ankara, scribble his name on a few sheets of paper, and abscond with a key US ally right under Washington’s nose? Isn’t there anyone at the White House who’s smart enough to anticipate a scenario like this or have they all been replaced with warmongering ding-dongs like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers?
The Obama administration has been doing everything in its power to control the flow of gas from east to west and to undermine Russian-EU economic integration. Now it looks like the nimble Putin has found a way to avoid the economic sanctions, (Turkey rejected sanctions on Russia) avoid US coercion and blackmail (which was used on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia), and avoid Washington’s endless belligerence and hostility, and achieve his objectives at the same time. But– then again– isn’t that what you’d expect from a level-headed martial arts pro like Putin?
“I won’t beat you,” says Bad Vlad. “I’ll let you to beat yourself.”
And, so he has. Just ask the befuddled Obama who has yet to prevail in any of his encounters with Putin.
But why the silence? Why hasn’t the White House issued a statement about the big Russian-Turkey gas deal that everyone’s talking about?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because they don’t know what the hell just hit them, that’s why. They were completely blindsided by the announcement and can’t quite figure out what it means for the issues that are on the very top of their foreign policy agenda, like the pivot to Asia, or the wars in Syria and Ukraine, or the much-ballyhooed gas pipeline from Qatar to the EU, that was supposed to transit– you guessed it– Turkey. Is that plan still in the works or has the Putin-Erdogan alliance put the kibosh on that gem too? Let’s face it, Putin has really knocked it out of the park this time. Team Obama is clearly out of its league and has no idea of what’s going on. If Turkey turns eastward and joins the growing Russian bloc, US policymakers are going to have to scrap the better part of their strategic plans for the coming century and go back to Square 1. What a headache.
There’s a good article in Wednesday’s New York Times that summarizes Washington’s ambivalence towards South Stream perfectly. Here’s an excerpt:
“Moscow has long presented the project, proposed in 2007, as making good business sense because it would provide a new route for Russian gas to reach Europe. Washington and Brussels have opposed the project on the grounds that it was a vehicle for cementing Russian influence over southern Europe and for bypassing Ukraine, whose price disputes with Gazprom twice interrupted supplies to Europe in recent years.”
Putin’s Surprise Call to Scrap South Stream Gas Pipeline Leaves Europe Reeling”, New York Times)
This has been the argument from the get-go, that selling gas to people in the EU somehow strengthens Putin’s maniacal grip on the continent. What a joke. Would you, dear reader, be willing turn off the heat, tear up your energy bill, and freeze to death in the dark to prove to your gas company that you’re not willing to capitulate to their tyrannical rule?
Of course not, because the idea is ridiculous. Just like blocking South Stream is ridiculous. Putin is selling gas, not tyranny. He doesn’t want people clicking their heels and goosestepping to work. That’s just propaganda from the people in the oil industry who lost the competition for supplying fuel to the EU. Call it sour grapes if you want, because that’s what it is. Their pipeline failed, (Nabucco) and Putin’s won. End of story. It’s called capitalism. Deal with it.
And here’s another thing: The countries that South Stream would have served, do not have a back-up supplier to meet their growing gas needs. So by following Washington’s lead, they’ve basically shot themselves in the foot. Analysts figure that any replacement for Russian gas will probably be 30 percent more expensive then they would have paid Gazprom.
Hurrah for the US! Hurrah for stupidity!