Energized Alliances

, Mytheos Holt, Leave a comment

This Wednesday, the Brookings Institution convened three panels of experts to discuss the new relationship between Russia and Turkey, whose history of hostilities has apparently abruptly ground to a halt. Every panel featured scholars from both Russia and Turkey, and were briefly interrupted for keynote address by Richard Morningstar, special envoy for Eurasian energy at the U.S. Department of State.

“Russia today is Turkey’s largest trading partner,” said Stephen Larrabee of the RAND Corporation. “This has introduced into Turkish foreign policy a desire to avoid, if possible, clashes with Russia.” Offering a personal account, former Turkish diplomat Volkan Vural told the audience a few of his stories from negotiating with the Russian government both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union, whose policies at the time he described as “a little Glasnost and hardly any Perestroika.” “I was instructed by the Prime Minister that I had one primary mission in Moscow—to oversee the natural gas deal signed with the Soviets in 1984, and which came into force in 1987,” Vural said. This “primary mission,” he later stated, led him to a meeting with the head of the KGB, after which her “personal supervision became relaxed.”

The second panel, moderated by Steven Pifer, also of the Brookings Institution, spent most of their time discussing the differences between energy markets in North American and Europe, the primary one being that North America had a “highly competitive gas market,” according to one speaker. This was in contrast with Europe, whose energy markets were unanimously characterized as more political than competitive.

Finally, in his keynote address, Ambassador Morningstar gave a few thoughts on the nature of energy-related diplomacy and the role of international and intranational institutions. “Governments can and should play a facilitating role in the international markets,” Morningstar said. “Governments should put in place the right business climate to extract investments.” When asked what the key to a successful energy policy was, Morningstar answered that it was mostly “diversity.” “Energy security is best achieved through diversity of suppliers, diversity of transportation routes and diversity of consumers,” Morningstar said, adding optimistically that there was a “very strong bipartisan approach” to energy security in the current administration.

Mytheos Holt is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.