In public space, they talk a lot about the construction of Nord Stream II, but for some reason, almost no one recalls the TurkStream, the Black Sea part of which was already opened in November 2018.
To understand what situation in 2-3 years may happen not just to the gas transportation system of Ukraine (GTS), but to Ukraine itself, look at the map of the GTS of Eastern Europe. There, the Russian GTS is growing like cancer, and it is occupying the European continent step by step.
Let me remind you that at the end of 2019 the agreement on the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine ends.
And here is the map, which specifically depicts the TurkStream (1 and 2 thread).
The desire of the Russian Federation to bypass the transit through Ukraine hadn’t appeared in 2013-2014. According to the experts, it all has started from the end of the 90s, when for the first time the Yamal pipe was launched (the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline – ed. note) through Belarus ‒ this is 1999-2003. And then the Blue Stream came to Turkey ‒ in 2003 and Nord Stream I in 2011. Since 2007, South Stream has already been planned, but after all, Putin finally had to refuse it. It is difficult to explain for what reason ‒ because of the EU’s position, regarding the threat of gas diversification to Europe, or the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, which has strained European attitude. Despite the project shut down, some of the pipes were still laid in the Black Sea.
To fully understand what is happening with gas pipes from the southern flank of Ukraine, pay attention to the following:
Blue Stream is a gas transmission pipe between the Russian Federation and the eastern part of Turkey along the bottom of the Black Sea and 444 km through Turkish soil. The construction had begun in 1997 and was launched into operation in 2003. Its capacity is 16 billion cubic meters per year. The official opening took place only in 2005 with a broad political gesture: Putin and Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi visited Erdogan to open the stream that had been operating for two years already. It was an Italian oil group Eni that was a partner of Gazprom in the construction of the offshore section of the gas pipeline.
South Stream is a Russian-Italian project, which had begun in 2007. Its goal is to drag the gas pipe to Bulgaria, and from there split into branches: from the south through Greece to Italy, and from the north through Serbia to Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Austria. A part of the pipe that would pass through the bottom of the Black Sea should belong to the Italian group Eni, and Gazprom should have a share of 50% of the stream. South Stream has four potential threads, each with a capacity of 15,5 billion cubic meters. But the most important thing in the story of the emergence of the South Stream. In fact, it arose as a synchronous reaction to the Nabucco gas pipeline, which should reduce the supply of Russian gas to Europe. Gas should go from Iran, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to Europe. But the opposite happened: the South Stream, in a strange way, became more attractive to Europe, and therefore it turned into the “killer” of Nabucco project. In 2014, large-scale construction plans for the South Stream broke down due to events in Ukraine as well. The European Parliament then adopted a resolution on the need to suspend the construction of the South Stream due to the need to diversify the sources of gas supply; the European Commissioner for Energy unequivocally commented on the need for the return of the Russian Federation to the international legal field because of the events in Ukraine. Conclusion: the construction of the stream is out of the question. In 2014, Bulgaria dismantled the South Stream gas pipes on its territory.
So, TurkStream. What is it and why is it extremely important for Ukrainian national interests? The TurkiStream is a plan of the Russian Federation to bypass the gas transmission system of Ukraine from the south. In fact, the TurkStream finishes the loop around the territory of Ukraine with the second lower odd. Thus, it releases the pipeline, transporting Russian gas through the Odesa region to Romania, Bulgaria and, finally, to Turkey. Putin was not worried about the tragedy of stopping South Stream in 2014 for too long, because in January 2015, Alexey Miller, the head of Gazprom, together with the Minister of Energy of Turkey, resumed the conversation about building a similar southern project. But already through the exit pipe in Turkey. And even after the Turks brought down the Russian fighter in 2015, the pause in the economic relations of the two countries did not last long. The Russians are unruly ‒ a potential military conflict between the Russian Federation and Turkey has yielded to the pragmatic goal of the Kremlin ‒ to bypass the gas pipe of Ukraine in any way. Therefore, it is not surprising that the diplomatic pause lasted for about six months, and in the summer of 2016, the dialogue on the construction of the TurkStream between the Turks and the Russians was restored. The volume of gas transit capacity has almost halved ‒ from the potential flow capacity of the southern stream of 63 billion to 31,5 billion cubic meters in 2 threads of the current flow.
The total length of the transformer substation is 1,100 km, the first line of which is intended for the supply of gas to a Turkish consumer in the amount of 15,75 cubic meters of gas, the second ‒ directed to South-Eastern Europe. Namely ‒ attention! ‒ again to Bulgaria. And also, for Serbia and Hungary. This will subsequently provide an opportunity to enter Austria and Slovakia. 3,5 billion cubic meters will be supplied for the needs of Bulgaria, 2,5 billion cubic meters ‒ for Serbia and 6 billion cubic meters ‒ for Hungary. The rest of the gas is planned to be sold to Slovakia and Austria. It is not difficult to trace the political positions regarding Putin’s policies in these countries. There is more than a friendly attitude. Serbia alone is just an oasis of not only the outspoken Russian world in Europe but also an undisguised buffer zone for the transfer of shadow weapons.
Russia is constructing all possible options for stopping the transit of its gas through Ukraine’s GTS. And doing it at a fast pace. By the way, in November 2018, at the opening of the Black Sea section of the first line of the TurkStream, Putin called it “a historical project that will give impetus to the development of the EU”. He also did not miss the opportunity to convey greetings to Ukraine and Nord Stream II, saying that “the TurkStream is a good example of the ability to protect one’s national interests”.
In case of the Nord Stream II, Ukraine has allies such as the United States, back then due to the large general advocacy campaign, we completely omitted communication with Europe with the issue of the second line of the TurkiStream. Bulgaria and Serbia are waiting for the start, and, if Europe does not interfere, then this is a direct way to complete the plan to bypass the territory of Ukraine and stop being dependent on our gas transportation system.
Here is how Natalya Boyko, the Deputy Minister of Energy and Coal Industry, comments on this situation: “One of the possible options for countering the implementation of TurkStream II is the distribution of EU norms and rules, the so-called third energy package, to the specified pipeline. In fact, Russia will have to allow other suppliers to supply gas through its offshore gas pipelines and lose control over TurkStream II. Today, it is important at the diplomatic level to continue to emphasize that any “Russian streams” should not have a competitive advantage because they cannot respect the EU’s rights and demand guarantees from the European Union for guaranteed volumes of transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, given the signed association agreement between Ukraine and the EU”.
According to the experts, in fact, now Ukraine is not attached in any way to the resistance and communication work on the construction of the second line of TurkStream. In addition to the statements of Andrii Kobolev, the head of Naftogaz of Ukraine, it is almost impossible to find any other harsh statements by Ukrainian political speakers, activists, or European ambassadors.
And now a little bit of math. In 2018 Ukraine provided the Russian gas transit service in the amount of 86,8 billion cubic meters. Through the Nord Stream II, the Russian Federation will have transit in the amount of up to 55 billion cubic meters. To Southern Europe through the TurkStream ‒ 15 billion. The implementation of the Nord Stream II project will lead to losses due to a decrease in the export of services of about 2,5-3 percent of GDP (direct losses only), respectively, Turkish ‒ up to 1%. But nevertheless, for what Ukraine should fight more ‒ for finances or its own security?
The construction of the TurkStream should be viewed as the last link in the implementation of the RF plan to circumvent the use of the services of Ukraine’s GTS, which opens the Kremlin the possibility of a full-fledged armed invasion. And it will already be unimportant how much the Ukrainian budget is losing, which the corruption is pulling out. But the simple question is strategically important: will the new tanks of the Russian Federation go deeper into our territory? Europe will immediately become more vulnerable because Russian borders will move 1,000 km closer. Only we, as always, will have to find a way out at the last moment. Because Ukraine will once again become a battlefield not only for its own independence but also for European security.
By Solomia Bobrovska