New Energy Geopolitics: Why Does Turkey Matter?

By Coskun, Bezen Balamir; Carlson, Richard | Insight Turkey, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

New Energy Geopolitics: Why Does Turkey Matter?


Coskun, Bezen Balamir, Carlson, Richard, Insight Turkey


The aim of this paper is to analyse Turkey's energy security perceptions and its placement in the new energy geopolitics. Like most countries that rely heavily upon imported energy sources, Turkey's energy policy is shaped by the broad definition of energy security. However, energy security is a term that means different things to different people. In northern Europe, energy security means reducing carbon emissions; in Eastern Europe, it means diversifying to counter an over reliance on Russian gas imports. For the Turkish government, it means avoiding a reliance on imported energy sources and supplying energy at a reasonable cost to the Turkish population.

This article will examine the latest developments in Turkey's energy policy and look at how the government is planning to meet the present challenges. It will show how the current policies are unlikely to meet growing demand without an expensive reliance on imported natural gas. This study also aims at discussing Turkey's energy policies within the context of the new energy geopolitics. Hence the article seeks answers to the following questions: How is energy security perceived in Turkey, and hence how are its energy-related policies formulated? What is Turkey's position within global energy security dynamics and why does Turkey matter for the new energy geopolitics?

The New Energy Geopolitics

Geopolitics is a generic term that covers "conceptual and terminological tradition in the study of the political and strategic relevance of geography." (1) The term covers the relationship between the conduct of foreign policy, political power and the physical environment. Historically, energy commodities have constituted geopolitical instruments. Under the global market economy, suppliers compete in the market and energy-producing countries can use energy as a regulative instrument. Hence, the issue of control of and access to energy resources appears as an indispensable part of any states' geopolitical considerations. The 18th century British and 19th century German power politics based on the control of energy resources illustrate the close link between geopolitics and energy. (2) Similarly, the United States' quest for accessing oil resources overseas has dominated 20th century geopolitics. In the early 1980s the term 'resource war' became popular in the United States because of the perceived Soviet threat to American access to Middle Eastern oil and gas. (3)

To draw attention to the close link between geopolitics and energy, with his renowned "Heartland theory," Halford Mackinder argued that the one who controls or influences the export routes and the oil and gas resources of the Heartland, the geographical area that covers Eastern Europe including Russia and most of the Black Sea, dominates the world. (4) After the end of the Cold War, the geopolitical significance of the greater Middle East has continued unabated, and the United States has extended its control over this energy-rich region to ensure that no single power should control its 'geopolitical space.' (5) In the post-Cold War era, a new geopolitics based on resource flows has prevailed over the old Cold War geopolitics drawn by ideological divides.

As global energy consumption continues to rise, there is more competition than ever over access to resources, and more attention is being given to protecting energy supply routes. Against this background, energy today has--more than ever--become one of the important generators of spatial geopolitics by emphasizing the ownership of hydrocarbon resources and control over pipelines routes.

The post-Cold War shift in international security from a security concept based on ideological differences to one that revolves around securing access to and control over energy resources has required further understanding and conceptualization of the link between energy and geopolitics. Within this context, Ulke Aribogan discusses the concept of energeopolitics, (6) and Mert Bilgin discusses new energy order politics, or neopolitics, within which the will and capabilities of big and rising powers consolidate their authorities. …

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