Russian president Vladimir Putin courted his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during talks in Kazakhstan with unprecedented offers of energy cooperation.
Putin told Erdogan that Russia can create a major gas hub in Turkey by redirecting supplies intended for the Nord Stream pipelines, which were damaged last month in a purported act of sabotage.
“In the course of the work of this hub, which we could create together, of course, it would also be a platform not only for supplies, but also for determining the price, because this is a very important issue—the issue of pricing,” Putin said. "Today, these prices are sky-high. We could easily regulate [them] at a normal market level, without any political overtones,” he added, according to Reuters. The Turkish side did not immediately respond, but the Kremlin said Moscow and Ankara are closely examining the gas hub proposal. The two leaders met in Astana during the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building measures in Asia (CICA), which also drew heads of state from eleven countries including Tajikistan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
The TurkStream pipeline, which runs from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea, was commissioned in 2020. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that TurkStream cannot and will not replace the NordStream 1 and NordStream 2 projects. "You can't say that. It's unprofessional to say that. Because capacities are different," he said, adding that the details of Putin’s gas hub proposal will need to be worked out with potential buyers in Southern Europe.
Putin’s energy overtures to Turkey come as Russia seeks alternative gas routes amid a steep decline in Russian energy exports to the EU. European governments face a stiffening energy crisis as the bloc’s gas supplies continue to lag behind demand into the winter months and beyond, prompting fears of rationing and blackouts.
The Russian leader blamed Western governments in an energy forum on Wednesday for market disruptions leading to spiraling utility costs for European consumers. "Ordinary Europeans are suffering … the population, like in the Middle Ages, has begun to stock up on firewood for the winter,” he said. The Kremlin has lashed out against EU proposals to mitigate soaring energy prices with a price cap on gas. “[With] their cavalier decisions, some western politicians are destroying the global market economy and are in fact posing a threat to the wellbeing of billions of people,” Putin said.
Putin and Erdogan were widely expected to discuss a possible settlement to the Ukraine conflict in their Astana meeting, but the Kremlin later said the subject was not brought up. "The topic of a Russian-Ukrainian settlement was not discussed," Peskov told Russian news outlet RIA.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.