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Turkey at an Energy Crossroads

Introduction

Turkey is an energy-transit nation that links Caspian and Central Asian suppliers with European consumers. But threatened interruptions to oil and gas transmission lines running through Turkey's Anatolian heartland have raised new questions about the country's place in the global energy market. In August 2008, Kurdish militants in Turkey bombed the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, forcing the world's second-longest conduit of crude to briefly halt shipments. Fighting between Russia and Georgia days later cast further doubt on the security of the pipeline; Turkey stands to lose millions of dollars in transit fees if crude flows stop. But Turkey's energy issues are not limited to pipeline politics. Inadequate domestic energy supplies, spiking electricity costs in 2008, and an overreliance on Russian gas raise questions about Ankara's own energy future and viability as a critical crossroads for fuel, experts say.

Pipeline Politics

Topping Turkey's energy challenges are strategic concerns in the wake of Russia's brief war with Georgia. Ahmet Davutoglu, the chief foreign policy advisor to Turkey's prime minister, says Turkey's security interests lie in successfully balancing its role as an energy transit country between producers and consumers. "Thanks to the geographical position Turkey enjoys, part of its national strategy involves facilitating the transit of energy across its territory," Davutoglu wrote in a 2007 policy paper (PDF). But this strategy is being challenged by what some analysts says are Russian designs to put "a choke hold" (BosGlobe) on Caspian energy. Eric Kreil, an oil analyst with the U.S. Energy Information Administration, told McClatchynewspapers that as fighting between Moscow and Tbilisi intensified in August 2008, "virtually all production" was shut down for weeks. While the BTC pipeline was not touched, Russia's actions temporarily halted flows through Georgia.

Steven A. Cook, CFR senior fellow...

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