Following Turkeys attempted coup d’etat in mid July of this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be rejecting continued US co-operation and a new alliance could be slowly emerging to challenge US influence.
The new potential alliance consists of Turkey, Russia and Iran. Despite Turkey’s stance in Syria which supports fundamentalist Islamic groups and Western deemed moderate groups against the Assad government, Erdogan has recently indicated a resetting of relations with Russia.
According to President Erdogan, the recent coup appears to have been supported by external elements with the main protagonist being Fethullah Gulen, a former friend of Erdogan, currently residing in the US in self imposed exile since 1999.
Erdogan has repeatedly asked the US to extradite Gulen, allegedly sending 85 boxes of evidence to prove Gulen’s involvement in the coup, the US subsequently rejected this saying that it does not feel the evidence is adequate.
The extradition of Gulen is a key request by Turkey, as time goes by anti Western sentiment builds. According to the Turkish justice minister Bekir Bozdag, anti American sentiment in Turkey is at its peak due to the Gulen issue. Bekir Bozdag also stated that if the US does not extradite Gulen, it will ‘sacrifice Turkey for a terrorist’.
If the souring of relations between the US, Europe and Turkey continues while Russian and Turkish relations improve, a new alliance could emerge with much larger consequences. An alliance that would directly challenge US and European energy policy, namely the removal of European dependency on Russian oil and gas.
Iran has and continues to work with Russia in the Syrian conflict. Both support the Assad government although Russia’s support appears to be based on stability and protecting its national and strategic interests within the country rather than the support of Assad per se. Iran has been a strategic ally to Syria for many years and appears to support President Assad himself.
Iran retains the largest proven oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia and following the lifting of economic sanctions recently, Iran is looking to build up its oil sales regardless of the low global oil price of recent times. US relations with all three countries appear to be at their lowest ebb for many years which could create a mutual alliance. One mutually beneficial reason could revolve around Iran’s vast natural oil reserves.
A deal could be struck to develop supply lines from Iran, through Turkey and Russia into Europe. In doing so, Russia’s dominance in the European energy supply market would be shored up and ensure extremely competitive energy prices in comparison to the US and it’s allies for the longer term.
The importance of energy security is paramount to any developing or developed nation and those countries that control the supply of fossil fuel’s can assert increased political and economic leverage. Energy consumption is predicted to continue rising into the long term, if Russia can acquire more reserves through partnerships, the more influence it can leverage. This may be through favorable energy supply deals that undercut it’s main competition.
Current US and European policy is to eliminate European dependency on Russian gas and oil, if steps are made as outlined above, this will directly contradict US and European policy. Real danger lies in how the US and Europe would seek to challenge this and how Russia would behave with increased leverage in energy supply.
This may not transpire of course as it is pure speculation but worth keeping an eye on developments going forward, changes are certainly a foot as US influence continues to decline and share of world GDP continues to shift East.