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Energy Policy: In the Environment of Complex Geopolitics and Competition

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Baku, 30 January 2015 – Newtimes.az

The extent of intensity of the ongoing struggle for the energy resources is evident. This process involves the big global powers. Owing to the fact that the energy factor provokes strife and armed clashes, it bears great significance for the international politics. According to the media reports, even the likes of ISIS are aiming to seize oil and gas fields. Thus, conducting of effective energy policy, under such circumstances, requires great proficiency. Comparisons demonstrate that the projects in this direction realized by the Azerbaijan’s leadership provide extensive maneuvering space.

Complications: Search for Efficient Cooperation Formula

Azerbaijan’s successes in the foreign policy are recognized far and wide. In this regard, the projects implemented in the energy sphere are among the notable ones, because in the modern world this factor is among priorities of the international relations. Therefore, it is not accidental that fierce competition over the energy resources is unfolding in the world and the big nations are widely using this subject for achieving own strategic objectives.

This is one of the angles that Russia-China relations are evaluated from. Harvard University professor J. Nye examines the prospects of an alliance between the two nations in the context of agreements struck in the energy sector (see: Joseph. S. Nye. A New Sino-Russian Alliance? / Project Syndicate, 12 January 2015). The numbers he cites are staggering. The estimated value of the natural gas trade project between Russia and China is $400 billion. Moscow is due to supply China with 68 billion cubic meters of natural for the next 30 years. Given that annually, Russia sells 40 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany, the deal with China signifies greater objectives.

Can such an enormous energy project forge a genuine alliance between the two nations? Cooperation in the field of energy certainly offers this prospect, because there are plans to establish comprehensive ties. And the prospects of cooperation raise no doubts, considering China’s year-on-year growing demand for energy resources. That being said, some other factors cannot be ruled out.

In this context, J. Nye highlights demographic and military factors. He contends that these two factors would be the ones to hamper the rise of the Russia-China relations to the level of strategic partnership. Presumably, in the energy policy, certain additional factors need to be appreciated for the outcome to be successful. This is why the experts emphasize both the significance and complexity of the energy policy.

The evaluation of the problem from this very perspective reveals efficiency of Azerbaijan’s energy policy. It’s known that foundation of this policy was laid by the national leader Heydar Aliyev. And President Ilham Aliyev has successfully continued the very course. There are several recent examples that are worthy of the emphasis. The number of experts predicts possible complications for the Azerbaijan’s energy policy, in light of the Russia’s scrapping of the South Stream. They believe that transportation of the Russian gas to the Greek border by means of the Turkish Stream project may reduce the viability of the TANAP project. The key argument is that Russia is a producer of significant volumes of energy and that it intends to sell it Europe. Moreover, Kremlin is determined to complete the project by the 2019, whereas 2020 is the earliest when TANAP could come online.

On the surface these comparisons appear logical. But if the broader picture is examined, one realizes that there aren’t any threats to TANAP and Azerbaijan’s energy policy, for that matter. Let us recall the geopolitical factors that we have highlighted above in the context of development of Russia-China relations. Despite that Russia can potentially sell huge volumes of energy to the Far East, the realities on the ground preclude that and J. Nye describes them in his article. Azerbaijan, in the meantime, can adeptly accommodate all the geopolitical factors. The country has never singled out the issue of energy; always remained mindful of the big picture and performed accordingly.

Turkish Stream: Emerging Competition?

The Southern Gas Corridor is a telling example. This project is intended not just for Azerbaijan’s gas. Iran and Central Asia could also benefit. On the other hand, the fact that it envisages supply of gas to Turkey does not mean that this country is the final destination. Let us not forget about the potential of different European nations, the Middle East, North Africa and others. Furthermore, one geopolitically important aspect needs not be neglected. The degree of the Western willingness to cooperate with Russia in the field of energy is obvious. Moscow may opt to deliver the gas to the border of Greece and build a hub there. But that does not necessarily imply that Europe will take advantage of that because experience demonstrates that at times Europe’s behavior is changeable. Therefore, Azerbaijan seems to be in a luckier position.

Turkey factor also must not be dismissed here. Ankara attaches great significance to the issue of Azerbaijan. The fluctuating oil prices, due to the ongoing processes in the world, is a different issue. In any event, in must be acknowledged that there shouldn’t be any complications in transporting Azerbaijan’s natural gas via Turkey.

The key factor is associated with the fact that the official Baku conducts an energy policy that is fully consistent with the country’s national interests. All the elements of the multi-vector foreign policy course are closely interconnected and this, in turn, provides greater flexibility in any changing environment. Therefore, exporting energy resources also ensures geopolitical interests of Azerbaijan. Apparently, owing to this reason, pro-Armenian forces are attributing Azerbaijan to various geopolitical configurations. And time and again they make irresponsible allegations that the country’s role here would be negative.

The number of controversial processes in the world has increased, since even a minor incident resonates greatly around the world. Under such circumstances, if the official Baku is playing a principal role in ensuring energy security of Europe, let alone that of the South Caucasus, this by itself is already a milestone. While, there is an ongoing debate regarding the fate of the European Union-Russia relations, seemingly Azerbaijan may get extra opportunities.

Most recently the Vice President of the European Commission on energy issues Maros Sevcovic travelled to Moscow for a meeting with the Gazprom chairman A. Miller regarding the cooperation prospects in the field of energy. Yet, upon the talks, the EU official said that he was very surprised by the Russia’s position, because Moscow failed to specify the conditions under which the Southern European countries would be supplied with natural gas. Thus, experts point out that against the background of Russia’s behavior, Azerbaijan puts forward clear-cut proposals. Accordingly, they believe that should a rivalry emerge in this area, Baku would stand better chances of winning.

Apparently, those who argue that the Turkish Stream would provoke complications for Azerbaijan are wrong. There can only be a healthy competition here and Baku’s prospects are promising. It must be particularly stressed that Moscow’s plans of using Turkish territory for the supply of gas pursues geopolitical objectives. Otherwise, A. Miller would have been more precise in expressing position on the subject of gas sales to the Southern European countries. It must be added that in this process, Turkey is better positioned to move towards more advantageous geopolitical horizons, as it rests on the energy routes originating in Russia and Azerbaijan. Thus, in many ways, Turkey may get broad maneuvering space through capitalizing on this advantage.

As far as Azerbaijan is concerned, the country will further develop its energy policy. The above mentioned analysis proves that our nation is capable of finding solutions to the most complex of the situations. It is once again that we witness the significance of the visionary policy of Heydar Aliyev – the founder of our independent statehood. Indeed, "Azerbaijan will be the Sun that shines upon the world'' (Heydar Aliyev).

Leyla Mammadaliyeva

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