Статья 'Turkish-Russian Relations within the BSEC' - журнал 'SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences' - NotaBene.ru
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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Turkish-Russian Relations within the BSEC

Tatlioglu Erman

PhD in History

Postgraduate, Department of Theory and History of International Relations, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

101000, Russia, Moscow, blvd. Chistoprudny, 14c3, sq. 70

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The article provides a brief analysis of the history of development and the current state of the Russian-Turkish partnership within the framework of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, which can be considered a functional area of cooperation that uses the convergence of the countries of the region by creating cooperation on various issues, such as the production of energy from underground resources of strategic importance for the region, agricultural production and tourism. In addition to this, the Black Sea Economic Organization is of notable importance in terms of sustaining stability in the region due to addressing the growing security concerns in the Black Sea region. The concept of a global security threat changed shape with the end of the Cold War. This led to a change in the view of international organizations on defense and allowed a focus on increasing the level of stability through the global policy of cooperation organizations created for security and economic purposes. The article also describes the measures and results of the two countries to ensure the fuel and energy balance in the Black Sea region, steps to reduce political tension associated with Turkey's participation in a strategic partnership with the EU countries, key projects in the fuel and energy sector. It should be noted that the identity of the historical destinies of Russia and Turkey, their historical and cultural role of the "East" in the West and "West" in the East, the unique geopolitical position, geographical proximity contribute to the strengthening of economic, political, cultural ties between Russia and Turkey.


NATO, Russia, Turkey, Black Sea region, fuel energy cooperation, strategic partnership, Russian-Turkish relations, BSEC, Black Sea, agreement

Introduction. The Turkish presence in the Black Sea has historically been one of the key factors influencing the geopolitical and economic processes in this region. In the XV-first half of the XVII centuries. The Black Sea, in fact, was the "Turkish inland sea" - the Ottoman Empire controlled most of the coast, thanks to which it had a strategic and commercial advantage.

After the end of World War II, Turkey became involved in the confrontation between two military-political blocs - NATO and the Association of Warsaw Pact countries. Since that time, the Black Sea region has been considered in the foreign policy of the Republic of Turkey as a buffer zone unsuitable for extensive economic activity [4, p. 7].

The decline in the role of the Black Sea basin in foreign economic activity led Turkey in the late 1980s to rapprochement with the USSR. Both states had a common historical path, cultural identities, were geographically and geopolitically close. Therefore, it is natural that soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (hereinafter referred to as BSEC) was created, which is an important step towards the development of economic cooperation between Turkey and Russia.

Cooperation continues into the 21st century. Given the political tensions prevailing between Russia and the EU countries and the United States, the Turkish direction is becoming an important part of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, especially since during the thirty-year existence of the BSEC, Turkey and Russia have developed an effective strategy for economic cooperation, on the basis of which it is possible to build a dialogue in other areas.

The purpose of the study is to analyze the key stages in the formation of a strategic partnership between Russia and Turkey within the framework of the BSEC.

Main part. The origin of the BSEC is connected with the activities of T. Ozal as President of the Republic of Turkey. In 1989-1991 Negotiations were held between Russia and Turkey on issues of economic cooperation in the Black Sea. The result of the negotiations was the signing on March 12, 1991 of the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation [4, p. 41].

This document laid the foundation for the creation of the BSEC, an agreement on the creation of which was signed on June 25, 1992 by representatives of 11 states of the Black Sea and Balkan regions (later, in 2004, Serbia joined them). However, May 1, 1999, when the Bosphorus Statement was signed in Istanbul, is considered to be the official date of the Organization's creation [4, p. 42]. The first meeting of the participating countries took place in June 1998 in Yalta, at which the Charter of the organization was approved, which secured the status of the BSEC as a regional international economic community [10].

The Russian Federation, relying on the successful experience of Soviet-Turkish relations, in the 1990s continued its course towards rapprochement with Turkey. On December 15-16, 1997, in Ankara, the countries signed 10 agreements on economic cooperation. Among the most important of them, it is necessary to highlight the "Long-term program for the development of trade, economic, industrial, scientific and technical cooperation." The program approved new volumes of natural gas supplies from Russia to Turkey and a plan to increase them through the construction of new gas pipelines - from 14 to 30 billion cubic meters per year [6, p. 19].

The meeting in Ankara allowed the Russian side to set for itself the following long-term tasks for cooperation within the framework of the BSEC:

1. Development of mutually beneficial relations with the BSEC countries to ensure economic and political stability in the region.

2. Deepening economic cooperation in all areas of activity, securing Russian assets in the domestic markets of the BSEC member states.

3. Strengthening the military presence in the Black Sea in order to counteract NATO forces in the region and prevent the creation of other collective security systems [1, p. 244].

At the beginning of the XXI century. the threat of international terrorism has intensified, as a result of which the leaders of Turkey and Russia decided to restructure the existing concept of partnership in the direction of multidimensionality - to strengthen relations within the framework of other international organizations of which they are members.

Also at the turn of the XX-XXI centuries. one of the large-scale joint projects in the fuel and energy sector was implemented - the construction of the Blue Stream - a gas pipeline along the bottom of the Black Sea, which was one of the results of the meetings in 1997. The construction of the gas pipeline was completed in 2005, thanks to which the energy problem of Turkey was solved . The country's economy no longer suffers from a shortage of raw materials, and an increase in supply volumes made it possible to export gas costs to other countries [6, p. 21].

The Blue Stream has significantly changed the positions of the EU countries and the United States in relation to the Black Sea. A new stage of competition began, in which Western countries and Russia competed for cooperation with Turkey as a transit region.

Even before the completion of the project, negotiations began between the partners on the construction of Blue Stream-2, a gas pipeline for fuel supplies to the countries of Southern Europe and the Middle East. However, its implementation was complicated by political squabbles - first of all, US pressure on Turkey, as a result of which the parties could not reach agreements for a long time - for example, the Turkish side put forward conditions unfavorable for Russia - the right to independently set gas prices during gas transit to third countries [9, p. 77].

The complication of the negotiation process was also associated with Turkey's participation in the Nabucco project - the construction of a gas pipeline from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan through Iran to Turkey and further to European countries - that is, bypassing Russia. The Russian side, in response, undertook the creation of the South Stream project, which also involved the supply of Caspian gas through the Black Sea to the countries of Southern and Central Europe [9, p. 78].

Thus, Russian-Turkish cooperation in the energy sector after the completion of the "Blue Stream" should have ended - especially since Turkey was now supplied with gas from Russia through two mains (the first - trans-Balkan - began to operate back in 1987). However, in 2009-2010 the Blue Stream 2 project has been discussed again.

On August 6, 2009 Prime Minister of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin. However, during negotiations with Turkish President R.T. Erdogan, the parties failed to reach a general agreement on the construction of the South Stream. Turkey continued to defend the prospects of Nabucco, which promised greater economic benefits for it than the maintenance of the South Stream [5, p. 64].

However, by that time the situation in the Caspian oil and gas region had changed. First, Turkmenistan stated that the total volume of natural gas deposits is 14 trillion cubic meters. cubic meters, thanks to which it is possible to increase the annual production rate to 100 billion cubic meters by 2012 [3, p. 171]. Russia was unable to ensure the export of such a huge volume of raw materials. Secondly, in 2008 the financial crisis broke out, because of which gas prices fell sharply, and purchases of Caspian gas for Russia would have been too unprofitable.

In April 2009, a gas leak occurred on the Central Asia - Center IV gas pipeline, which provoked an explosion, as a result of which Turkmenistan was forced to stop gas supplies to the countries of Central Asia and Russia. In May 2009, the EU countries together with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Egypt and Turkey ratified the project documentation for the Nabucco gas pipeline [5, p. 65].

In October 2009, an agreement was concluded between Turkey and Iran, according to which gas from the Iranian South Pars field was to be exported to Turkey and Europe via the future Nabucco gas pipeline. However, the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States as a result of Tehran's development of its own nuclear program nullified all agreements in this area [3, p. 172]. The Nabucco project was curtailed.

At the same time, the Russian side was conducting active economic diplomacy in the Turkish direction, making a number of profitable proposals and making a number of concessions on energy cooperation issues. After the collapse of Nabucco, Turkey changed its attitude towards the Russian project and made a response proposal, which included three key tasks:

1. Implementation of the Blue Stream-2 project in order to increase the annual volume of exports to 66 billion cubic meters with the possibility of its transit to the countries of the Middle East (Israel, Cyprus).

2. Implementation of the Samsun-Ceyhan project - a through gas pipeline through the territory of Turkey, bypassing the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.

3. Construction by Russia of the first stage of nuclear power plants on the territory of the Republic of Turkey [9, p. 78].

In May 2010, during the visit of the President of the Russian Federation D.A. Medvedev to Turkey, the parties confirmed their mutual interest in the development of fuel and energy cooperation: more than 20 strategic partnership agreements were signed in various sectors of the economy. First of all, the countries reached an agreement on the construction of the Samsun-Ceyhan through gas pipeline and the first four blocks of the Turkish nuclear power plant. Also an important milestone in the development of relations between the two states was the abolition of the visa regime [1, p. 256].

Achieving consensus on just these three positions provided solid budget revenues for both sides. In addition, Russia was interested in maintaining partnership with Turkey also because Turkey's favorable geopolitical location as a transit region made it possible to expand further gas cooperation and finally stop the attempts of the EU countries to abandon Russian fuel.

On December 7, 2012, the construction of the South Stream was started, which was supposed to pass through the Turkish waters. In 2013-2014 due to the aggravation of the Ukrainian crisis in relations between Russia and Europe, a period of aggravation began, as a result of which, on December 1, 2014, President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin at a press conference in Ankara said that Russia is stopping the implementation of the South Stream because it is impossible to reach agreements with partner countries and is interested in finding "new promising export directions" [7, p. 55].

On April 7, 2015, Hungary, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey in Budapest signed an agreement on cooperation in the energy sector and the creation of new routes for gas supplies from Turkey to Europe, thereby expressing their participation in Russia's future projects. In October 2015, at the BSEC conference, the participating countries supported Russia's proposals to expand transport links in the Black Sea region. And already in December of the same year, an energy summit of the BSEC countries was held in Istanbul, where the parties confirmed their interest in creating a “common regional energy space” [2].

It should be noted that Russia is a key political and economic partner. Firstly, up to 35% of the total cargo traffic of the BSEC member countries passes through the Black Sea and Azov ports of Russia annually, and, secondly, the share of Russian fuel exports in the economies of these countries is 50-60% [2]. These two reasons are sufficient for the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe to be interested in strengthening cooperation and developing a political dialogue with the Russian Federation.

However, the situation was complicated by an unforeseen event: on November 24, 2015, the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 over Syria, and all the agreements reached were in jeopardy. Only on June 27, 2016, the President of the Republic of Turkey R.T. Erdogan apologized to Russia and spoke about the restoration of friendly relations. On August 9 of the same year, Erdogan visited Russia and confirmed the restoration of work in all areas of economic cooperation between the two countries. V.V. Putin, in turn, expressed hope for the speedy completion of two key positions of the Russian-Turkish partnership - the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the Akkuyu NPP [1, p. 263].

The Turkish Stream project was developed shortly after the suspension of the construction of the South Stream, and was based on it. Unlike the European one, the Turkish highway requires less capital investment. According to the agreements reached by Russia and Turkey at the World Energy Congress in October 2016, the construction of the Turkish Stream was to be completed by 2019 [8, p. 10].

The first volumes of gas supplies to Turkey via Turkish Stream were carried out in January 2020. In addition to Turkey, gas is exported to Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, North Macedonia, and from January 2021 to Serbia and Bosnia. Negotiations are underway to connect Hungary to the Turkish Stream [2].

The construction of the Akkuyu NPP near the Turkish city of Merin continues. The planned capacity of the station will allow Turkey to reach new levels of energy resources and ensure the sustainability of economic growth. This project now remains a priority within the framework of Russian-Turkish cooperation. The launch of the power plant should provide up to 10% of all energy costs of the Republic of Turkey and reduce dependence on hydrocarbons and coal [].

The last, fourth stage of construction of Akkuyu should be completed by the end of 2022, and the launch of all four power units in 2023, the year of the centenary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. Given that nuclear energy is a new industry for Turkey, the Russian side also aids in training national workers - future workers of the first Turkish nuclear power plant [6, p. 23].

Conclusion. The basis of Russian-Turkish relations is cooperation in the economic sphere. Russia is Turkey's third largest export partner (after Germany and China). Turkey, in turn, is the seventh largest partner for Russia.

In 2019, the total trade volume of the two countries amounted to 26.5. billion US dollars. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, this volume did not decline as much as expected – by 22% (USD 5.7 billion). The plans of countries to increase trade turnover up to 100 billion dollars [8, p. 10].

Within the framework of the BSEC, one hundred Turkish students, future employees of the Akkuyu NPP, are being trained in Russian universities. Thus, the foundation for the future scientific and technological development of the Republic of Turkey is being laid.

In addition, Turkey is one of the main partners of Russia in the field of construction. Up to 25% of foreign projects with the participation of Turkish contractors are carried out in the Russian Federation. In 2020, the volume of proceeds from construction abroad for Turkey amounted to 12 billion US dollars, of which 3 billion came from Russia [8, p. eleven].

It is impossible not to mention the tourism sector, in which Turkey continues to be the leader in terms of the number of tourists from Russia. In 2019, 7 million citizens of the Russian Federation visited the country, which was a record figure. However, as early as next year, this figure dropped to 2.1 million, although vacationers from Russia still retained the leading position [2].

Finally, the military cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the special operation in Syria confirmed the viability of the chosen diplomatic model of cooperation between the two countries. Russia and Turkey are ready to engage in dialogue and find compromise solutions on controversial issues.

In general, over the 30 years of cooperation between Russia and Turkey within the framework of the BSEC, many mutually beneficial agreements have been concluded between the countries and a large number of various projects have been implemented, primarily in the fuel and energy sector. Thanks to a well-built strategic partnership, the Black Sea region is today becoming one of the actively developing economic zones at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

The BSEC also acts as one of the instruments for ensuring the security of the countries of the Black Sea basin. Considering the aggravation of the geopolitical situation, for Russia the presence on the Black Sea means, firstly, the preservation of existing economic ties with the Republic of Turkey, and, secondly, their further deepening, primarily in the field of military, transport and environmental cooperation.

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