Sanctions are coming: The Future of TurkStream - Ercan Emre Çelik


Throughout 2019, the US Congress has approved numerous legislative measures to stop Russian energy expansion towards Europe. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed Congress on this December, sanctions will take place on companies involved in TurkStream. NDAA is the annually enacted legislation to specify and regulate federal laws on the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense


Section 7503 of the Act includes sanctions targeting maritime companies that provide pipe-laying services for the construction of Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines. These sanctions were part of a broader bipartisan effort in the legislative branch, and they were previously a draft law of their own dubbed as the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019. Still, congressmen integrated it within the NDAA to prevent it from hitting any obstacles whether from President Trump or the Department of State, meaning that the likelihood of facing any opposition for the enactment of the Act is very low.


The ultimate impact of the sanctions concerning TurkStream would be minimal as the underwater part of the construction process is primarily completed as recently, the Turkish Energy Minister announced that TurkStream would be launched on the 8th of January with the participation of Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Putin. But the Nord Stream 2, however, is very likely to be negatively affected by these sanctions as the project faced several delays due to weather conditions at sea to lay downpipes.


With 930 kilometers of it laid down offshore, TurkStream will transfer Russian gas to Europe through Turkey. Although with this pipeline, Russian gas will enter Europe through the Balkans, with facing sanctions and delays, the problems arising for Nord Stream 2 can increase the importance of TurkStream, thus indirect reliance of Europe to Turkey for the Russian supply of natural gas.


Another aspect of this project is its geopolitics. The pipeline is laid on the Black Sea, which has become a significant area of interest and importance to divert resources for NATO which for the first time after the end of Cold War has designated excellent power competition as its primary conventional doctrine again this year, targeting Russian political-military expansion towards West.


A joint venture of BOTAŞ and Gazprom, the Turkey-section of the project in terms of engineering and pipeline platforms, is carried out by Petrofac and Tekfen Holding of Turkey, which could be among the targets of the sanctions.


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