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Recep Tayyip Erdogan
As Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, turns away from its Western links, it is aligning itself more and more with Iran, Syria and Russia, especially because of its quickly developing energy and trade connections to the central part of what was the old Soviet Union, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
From a strategic standpoint, the development gives Moscow an opportunity to further undermine a plan by NATO to spread its security arrangement further east in a region Moscow considers to be its sphere of influence.
During a recent visit to Moscow to meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed multi-billion dollar agreements on trade and energy.
While both parties agreed to increase trade from the current $35 billion to $100 billion within the next five years, the most significant development was an agreement in their strategic relationship on energy cooperation.
In addition to concessions on various pipelines between the two countries, Erdogan pledged to pursue Russian construction and operation of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
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The Turks were left with little choice but to involve Russia more in its energy future, given that Turkey imports some 70 percent of its natural gas from Russia.
That dependency also gives the Russians considerable political and economic leverage over Ankara and increases Moscow’s influence over Europe’s energy future through greater control of existing and proposed pipelines that provide European countries with more than 40 percent of their energy needs.
Various pipelines with Turkish participation as a gate to the West, however, are but one source of control Russia is exhibiting over the Turks.
The more significant one is Russia’s proposal to construct and operate Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
Erdogan and Putin signed a commitment to construct the nuclear power plant, even though there is some domestic opposition due to the existing heavy reliance on Russia for energy.
The plant is to be built on the Mediterranean coast near Akkuyu. A consortium to construct the nuclear power plant includes Russia’s Atomstroyexport, Inter Rao Eus and Turkey’s Park Teknik.
Putin said that Russia had “significant advantages over the competition” to build the nuclear plant in Turkey. In one sense, he was alluding to the virtual energy grip Moscow enjoys over Ankara.