Providing safe, continuous energy resources with reasonable costs is an important component that energy importing countries take into consideration in foreign policies.

Energy is a strategic input for economic development and the safety of the countries. Countries with rich energy resources have an important source of income without incurring high costs with their supplier status in the global energy market and they reach this strategic input easily. On one hand, the disadvantaged importer countries try to provide the needed energy resources safely and continuously by trade, and they also aim to conduct this trade in suitable conditions and prices as much as possible. Therefore, providing safe and continuous energy resources with reasonable costs is an important component that energy importing countries take into consideration in foreign policies.

In case of an interruption in the energy resource flow, it gets costly to substitute the resource in the short term with other alternatives for foreign-dependent countries. And this weakens foreign-dependent countries for energy against supplier countries. The weakness in question can also reflect on the activity and action radius of the importer countries in foreign policies. The action radius of countries, which are highly foreign-dependent, do not diversify their suppliers and resources, and do not use their local resources effectively and efficiently, may narrow down in foreign policies. Because supplier countries tend to use their energy sources as a carrot and stick tool in accordance with their aims in foreign policy. The trade of energy resources that are mostly managed by state-controlled companies due to their high revenue and income potentials are formed in accordance with the foreign policy framework determined by the supplier country. The embargo named as OPEC Crisis in the early 1970s and imposed by oil-exporting Arab countries to Western countries, citing their support for Israel, is an example of an energy utilization as a foreign policy weapon. Nowadays, if there are coal, petrol, and required infrastructure, the primary energy sources like electricity can be provided from the spot market, significantly restricting the use of these resources as a carrot and stick tool. Since natural gas requires long-term agreements and high-cost infrastructure to achieve trade between the countries, can be purchased from the spot market in liquid form as it cannot be sold as gas, requires high costs when turning the gas into a liquid and since there isn’t much of an eco-friendly alternative to it in meeting the heating needs of families; it can be used as a foreign policy weapon against importer countries. The foreign policy of Russia to keep former Soviet countries in its orbit over natural gas contracts is a striking example of this. At this point, the natural gas reserve discovery in the Tuna-1 zone that is planned to meet about a 7-year gas need will save our country $12-13 billion foreign trade costs annually in current numbers and positively affect our foreign policy. If open sea natural gas technology will be quickly transferred, the year 2023, which is predicted for the start of production, can be a realistic guess, considering the Israel example, which started producing the natural gas discovered in Tamar within four years.

Turkey is now roughly 70% foreign-dependent on energy and shows efforts to decrease this percentage. Our country now increases the share of renewable energy resources like wind, water, and solar energy within the total installed power (the rate in the 2019 data was 45.2%), continues its natural gas storage investments against threats, and is building nuclear power plants to diversify production. As a result of these steps and the pandemic period, as of June 2020, Turkey’s natural gas import decreased by 26% and oil import by 12% compared to the same period last year.

In addition to the domestic steps, Turkey also diversifies its natural gas suppliers. As of June 2020, Turkey’s natural gas import from Russia decreased by 86% compared to the same period last year. Turkey compensates for this decrease by importing its natural gas from countries like Azerbaijan, Qatar, Algeria, Trinidad, Tobago, as well as the USA, which became a natural gas exporter with the shale gas revolution. Thus, our country aims to extend its foreign policy area against Russia, where it has conflicts due to the Syria policy.

If the natural gas discovery activities positively progress in the upcoming period both in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean regions, it is possible that Turkey can become a natural gas exporter. Therefore, Turkey should be ready for new developments in terms of energy, economy, and foreign policy in its region. Turkey’s natural gas export will also increase the foreign policy activities and action radius of the EU countries against Russia. The energy trade between the EU countries and Turkey, which have similar economic and political institutions in comparison to Russia, should be seen as mandatory beyond choice.

Dr. Osman Zeki Gökçe, Lecturer at Istanbul Medipol University