The invasion of Ukraine marked Europe’s largest post-World War Two and posed a significant threat to the continent’s energy security. Russia, the world’s largest oil and gas exporter, has direct energy ties with most European countries and China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and others. Russia has used these exports as political leverage since Soviet times. But the invasion of Ukraine turned Russia into a single player. Its energy customers are not just worried about sanctions. Most of them are reconsidering Moscow’s self-reliance. They see large companies like BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil leaving Russia, potentially leaving billions of dollars in assets after decades of investment.
Western energy companies will deprive Russia’s energy sector of much-needed capital and expertise with the exit. Even Italy has blocked loans for a new natural gas export terminal in Russia’s Arctic. In this regard, in the long run, the Ukraine war will shift Europe from fossil fuels, especially Russian oil and gas, to other energy sources. But in the short term, it will be difficult for European customers to replace Russian oil.
The options available for Russian oil are prominent in three cases. In the first place, Western partners in OPEC, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, come to mind. But OPEC was quick to point out that there was no shortage, and even in its monthly report, the cartel took an unusual step, acknowledging that war was a threat to escalating global inflation. However, even the visit of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia pushing for more oil production could not satisfy them in the face of pressure from the United States, Japan, and European countries to accelerate production growth. For this reason, we have recently witnessed the success of most Ansarullah operations in Saudi Arabia, which until recently failed with the cooperation of the United States. Thus, indirect pressure on Riyadh to increase production may change the situation.
Estimates show that Saudi-led OPEC has available between 3.7 and 5 million barrels per day of surplus oil production capacity. An increase of 1.5 million barrels per day could offset another 40 percent of Europe’s dependence on Russia.
Europe is more dependent on Russian oil. Yet there are options to help alleviate the crisis, with US companies shipping liquefied natural gas across the Atlantic, however peak US export capacity to replace Russian supply is limited, which can be a sure substitute for that country’s gas. There are also growth plans elsewhere, with Qatar planning to increase its capacity by 2027 significantly. Newly developed gas reserves in East Africa, Papua New Guinea, and the Eastern Mediterranean will be added to liquefied natural gas export terminals. In such a context, the continuation of the Ukraine war has led to the strengthening of the European Green Agreement to ensure long-term energy security through decarburization in order to neutralize global warming. The plan covers all significant areas of energy use, from buildings and efficiency to electricity markets, with a strong emphasis on switching to carbon-free and low-carbon sources.
Turkey’s role in changing the geopolitics of energy
Turkey, due to its geographical location in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe, and in its quest to join the European Union as a transit country and facilitator of gas exports, it seems to embrace its potential as a strategic energy partner. This makes one of the strongest arguments for joining Europe. In this regard, the transfer of Caspian gas to Italy is one of the dimensions of gas cooperation between Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Europe. With the collaboration of Turkey and Azerbaijan, it is possible to transfer gas from the Shah Deniz gas field in the Caspian Sea from the shores of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Europe. Turkey hails the transfer of Azerbaijani gas to Italy as the beginning of a new chapter in Turkey’s role in supplying energy to continental Europe. The transfer, which began via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, consists of three sections (the South Caucasus, the Trans Anatolian, and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline). The 878-kilometer trans-Adriatic gas pipeline runs to southern Italy from Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea. The project is expected to send 8 billion cubic meters of gas a year to Italy, 1 billion cubic meters a year to Greece, and 1 billion cubic meters a year to Bulgaria, which plays an essential role in Europe’s energy security and diversity. Its shareholders include BP, SOCAR, and Snam, each with 20% profit, Fluxi with 19% profit, Enagás with 16% share, and Axpo with 5%.
The final challenge is competition in the Eastern Mediterranean. As Turkey’s Eastern Mediterranean policy addresses all aspects of its pervasive challenges and fundamental shift in the balance of power, it is becoming increasingly crucial to the country. For this reason, through overt and covert negotiations, especially with Egypt and Israel, it seeks to transfer any energy from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe only through Turkey. Yet, we note the high cost of transporting gas extracted from Israel to southern Cyprus and the island of Crete, and then from there to Greece and Italy through a natural gas pipeline with a length of 1900 km (1300 km of which passes under the sea). In addition, it needs avoiding entering Turkish territorial waters, thus the transportation should be done in the deep waters. In conclusion, Turkey is more likely to succeed, as it presents a better connection.
In general, the processes of change in the energy sector due to the Ukraine war have led Turkey to pursue its foreign policy to influence the energy transit and transportation sectors in various geographical areas, short-term and long-term strategies, creating alliances and coalitions. Most of the strategies imply adopting temporary measures based on national interests.
 BP plc is a British oil and gas company headquartered in London, England. It is one of the world’s seven oil and gas supermajors.
 The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, largely known as SOCAR is fully state-owned national oil and gas company headquartered in Baku, Azerbaijan.
 Snam is Europe’s leading operator in natural gas transport and storage, with an infrastructure capable of delivering the transition to hydrogen.
 Enagás, S.A. is a Spanish energy company and European transmission system operator, which owns and operates the nation’s gas grid.
 Axpo is Switzerland’s largest producer of renewable energy and an international leader in energy trading and the marketing of solar and wind power.
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About the author:
Amin Bagheri is a Research Fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, transnational governance, international peace, and conflicts in the Middle East.