energy diplomacy of Turkey



Energy is an indispensable element of the country’s economic and diplomatic power. As much as a country’s natural resource wealth, its geopolitical position is important. Because the geopolitical position plays a big role in transporting the resource and reducing its cost. Turkey, on the other hand, is in an important place due to its geopolitical position, even if it does not have enough resources in the world energy game. Despite being in such an important position, it also provides the most budget deficit through energy spending. The aim of this study is to discuss Turkey’s position in the world energy game from a diplomatic, economic and geopolitical perspective.

Key Words: Energy, Energy Diplomacy, Energy Geopolitics, Energy Economics, Turkey


Energy is an important resource for living things and it also one of the tools of sustainable development. For centuries, animal and human power have been used and then fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas began to be used under the influence of the Industrial Revolution (Alodali& Usta:163). Having primary resources like this in a sustainable way is strategically important, both from a foreign policy and economic point of view. For example, during the Industrial Revolution, owning a coal bed was a sine qua non of hegemony. In addition to these coal deposits, oil and post-1970 natural gas has maintained their strategic importance among developed countries, as they are the lifeline of industrialization (Karabulut, 2016).  

When we look at energy policies in the plane of International Relations, first, the geopolitical position of energy resources and second, the economic impact of energy on countries is important.  Within the framework of these discussions, “scarcity of resources” plays an important role in the energy strategy between countries. From this point of view, until the  World War II to the Libyan Civil War, the global energy equation manifests itself within the global security structure. Before the twentieth century geopolitics was studied by Barry Buzan and George Lawson, in which case the importance of Natural Resources was described as an evolution in the international system. On the other hand, when we look at the relationship between energy and global structure, Jeffrey W. According to Legro and Andrew Moravcsik, during the Cold War, it was seen that superpower such as the United States (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) moved towards States in western Asia rich in energy resources, shaping their policies on this issue and meeting their needs through these countries.  The behavior of superpowers on this issue can be explained from a realist framework. Thus, the game of bargaining over the distribution of interstate scarce resources is carried out. The same opinion, J. Nye also said that “resource bargaining” played an important role, stressing the role of shaping energy supply in the regions. In other words, the concept of military power put forward by realism began to be questioned during the Cold War, and under the influence of neorealism, the understanding of military power, as well as competition, alliance relations and collective security came to the fore. In this case, energy security has undoubtedly become important (Mohapatra, 2016).  Based on this, the United States, especially. It has been focused on the Middle East since World War II, but its effectiveness is not exactly that of World War II. After World War II, it began with the Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957. The main purpose of this doctrine, which came out in the Cold War conditions was to prevent the spread of communism, the ideology of the USSR. Because, under the influence of the USSR, Arab socialism broke out in the Middle East under the influence of Abdul Nasir, and elements such as oil companies and the Suez Canal were tried to be nationalized. This did not work for many Western states, especially the United States. Prevent this situation, the United States wanted to provide economic and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries that wanted to ensure and maintain their independence. Even for the control of international communism, the use of American armed forces in the Middle East under the name of riot police was envisaged (Akbas, 2011a).  The 1973 Arab – Israeli War, because of the Arabs against Israel, the land they lose, and Western industrialized countries to support Israel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce the supply of energy by the hands of and as a result caused stagflation in the world economy. As a result, both European countries ‘ energy supply security has been damaged and their costs have increased and they have experienced an economic break (Yilmaz& Kalkan, 2017). By the 1990s, due to the collapse of the USSR, neoliberalism had declared its victory and globalization had begun to spread around the world. Thus, the concept of “interdependence” introduced by liberalism began to manifest itself, and at the point of energy security, it evolved towards cooperation rather than the power-oriented strategy of the Cold War (Furuncu& Akbaş, 2019b).  

Turkey, which has an important geopolitical position, has a unique position in terms of energy transit, even if it causes budget deficits due to energy resources. In this study, Turkey’s Economic Policy and energy diplomacy on energy will be examined, considering the political, economic, and diplomatic conjunctions in which Turkey is located.


Political decisions can sometimes be a factor that depends on geographical elements. Based on this, we can say “geopolitics” in the area where political, ideological and economic decisions are determined according to the geographical variables of the countries. Geopolitics includes a country’s population, climate, physical characteristics, and natural resources. Country policies and strategies are determined by taking these elements into account (Harunoğulları, 2020: 181). The concept of geopolitics was first used among military concepts. But then the discipline of international relations also began to conduct geopolitical analyses, better seeing the interactions in the geographical area and producing a better policy for the future (Sevim, 2012: 4379). 

According to Kjellen (1905), who first used the concept of geopolitics, geography explains the power and role of a nation state in international relations. Classical formulations have revealed a causal relationship between political and physical power over geographic space. In Mackinder (1904)’ s heartland theory, he bases geopolitics on great power strategies, military alliances, historical and geographical factors. These geopolitical strategies are a zero-sum game(Austuik& Rzayeva, 2017: 540). According to heartland theory, the world is an island covered by the sea. Asia, Europe and Africa are a whole. The rest is the Earth’s satellite. The region, from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and Siberia, is the heartland of the world due to its rich natural resources. Countries and regions such as Western Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, Iran, China surround this heart in the form of an inner and edge Crescent. The one with the inner and edge Crescent has the heartland and thus dominates 90% of the world (Ozey, 2017). So, it is not wrong to say that geopolitics is formed by geoeconomics and geostrategic elements. Geostrategy is more often explained as a military concept, while geoeconomics is the distribution of resources between states within the framework of capacity, administrative competence, technological development. By whom these resources are controlled, their cost, price, and the scale of dependence are determined by the geopolitical role (Austuik& Rzayeva, 2017).  There are also energy sources within these geoeconomics sources. Energy geopolitics examines the transport of energy resources, reserve areas and strategic use of their supply in a political and military framework. Energy and geopolitics change in a interconnected way. These changes are manifested in relation to reserves, energy demands of countries and technological changes. Energy geopolitics began to become important after the 1990s with globalization due to the scarcity of fossil resources. At the same time, when Eurasia began to be discredited with the collapse of the USSR, actors such as Iran, Turkey, and China began to redefine the region. On the other hand, 65% of oil reserves and 49% of natural gas reserves are in North Africa and the Middle East region. Therefore, the shipment and route of these resources is also important for the security of energy supply in the Middle East and North Africa. We also see the advantages of geopolitics and geostrategic in terms of energy transportation and transportation in Turkey. Because of its position, Turkey is a bridge connecting the Caspian, Mediterranean, Middle East, Balkans and Europe.  According to Mackinder’s heartland theory, this position of Turkey is in the inner crescent region. Therefore, because it is close to regions rich in natural resources such as Eurasia, Turkey is seen as a gateway to the center of the world. On the other hand, Turkey located in the middle of important regions such as the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, has the characteristic of being a terminal and center on the North – South and east – west axis. This characteristic of Turkey is a strategic value that enables it to be a transit country for energy transport from the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia to Europe (Sevim, 2012; Harunoğulları, 2020).


Today, the most important goal of all countries is to achieve sustainable economic growth. Energy is closely related to all economic and social aspects of sustainable growth, as well as an important parameter in shaping domestic and foreign policies. When we look at energy from the point of view of economic activities, it is the most important determinant of the level of prosperity, as it is one of the most important inputs in the production process. From here, we can also explain the level of development of a country with energy within the framework of causality. The level of development of societies is shaped according to the resources and quantities requested. Because the types and quantities of these resources indicate the consumption habits of the population, technological development, level of urbanization and industrialization. From this point of view, production needs to be maintained and increased steadily to ensure healthy and sustainable economic growth at the national level and to improve prosperity and quality of life at the individual level. While energy resources are necessary to create a stable economy, it is also necessary to ensure the security of supply to ensure these requirements in a timely and uninterrupted manner. If supply is disrupted, a lack of energy inputs can lead to a decrease in production, a decrease in prosperity, and an inability to achieve consistent growth. When an economy becomes dependent on any energy supply, this supply reduction, exhaustion, or interruption to prevent potential disruptions such as economic, social and political instability is vital to ensure (Çalışkan, 2009: 297; Esen, 2016: 281; Adaçay, 2014: 88) .

As Turkey is a foreign dependent country in terms of energy, energy security has become important for Turkey. Because even if energy consumption per capita in Turkey is lower than in developed countries, energy demand continues to increase. In this case, meeting energy demand from external sources causes energy shortages and raises the issue of energy security. Turkey’s energy resources are scarce and therefore the increase in production costs negatively affects energy security. Oil, hard coal, lignite, natural gas, hydroelectric and geothermal energy, wind energy, energy from tides and waves, nuclear energy, solar energy, wood, animal and plant waste as such, has undergone any change or transformation process, the primary energy.  Converted energies such as electricity, coking coal, gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are secondary energy. According to British Petroleum (BP)’s 2007 data on the share of resources in primary energy consumption in Turkey, the share of oil and natural gas is 31%, the share of coal is 30% and the share of hydraulics is 8%, and the raw materials in the production of these resources are usually imported from outside.  These imports are carried out through 63% Russian Federation, 17% Iran, 4% Azerbaijan, 4% Nigeria, 9% Algeria. If we look at the period between 2000-2015, you can see how expensive these import rates are for the country’s budget.

YearsAnnual domestic production (thousands)Total energy demand (thousands)Rate to absorption domestic production (%)Total energy imports(thousands)External Dependency Ratio (%)The Current Account Deficit(Billion $)
Gökce, C , Erol, M . (2020). Türkiye’de Tasarruf Açığı ve Enerji Açığının Ekonomik Büyüme ile İlişkisi: Nedensellik Analizi (THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SAVING GAP, ENERGY GAP AND ECONOMIC GROWTH IN TURKEY: THE CAUSALITY ANALYSIS). Dumlupınar Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi , (64) , 108-110.

In these proportions, the share of oil and natural gas is quite large. The main reason for this is that the primary energy sources in our country remain at a very low level in terms of quality and quantity compared to the world reserves. In this case, budget deficits are gradually increasing. The reason for the fall in the budget deficit between 2010- 2015 is the 2008 crisis and the Arab Spring. Because both oil prices have fallen and demand for Energy has decreased (Gökçe& Erol,2020: 108-110; Çalışkan, 2009: 298-305).


Energy diplomacy is a set of thoughts and behaviors in which a state or global company demonstrates its interests between energy sources and the energy market. As a result of the discovery of oil extracted from the first commercial oil well opened in the United States in 1839, and the importance of the automobile industry, energy diplomacy also took its place in international relations. British settlement in the Middle East after World War II, II. After World War II, the Cold War, the influence of Arab nationalism and socialism in the 1950s nationalization made for the oil companies, the establishment of the OPEC oil crisis of 1973, the establishment of the IEA, global oil companies to rise with globalization the impact of the collapse of the USSR, the Gulf War and September 11, there have been important factors such as energy diplomacy processes.

When we look at Turkey’s energy diplomacy, it is focused on three basic principles. These;

  • Adhere to the win-win principle,
  • Contribute to the security of supply of Turkey and the region and
  • To deal with all projects that will support regional peace.

By implementing such policies and trying to close existing current account deficits in this direction. Turkey, which wants to increase its energy diversity has entered into bilateral and multiple agreements on a regional basis.  (Alodali& Usta, 2017: 164-166).  

For example, the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project was carried out between Turkey and Azerbaijan based on bilateral relations. An important process has begun for Caspian gas to reach Europe. The TANAP project aims to send Azerbaijani gas to Europe in the first place and then deliver other Caspian gas to Europe, especially Turkmen gas (Erdogan, 2017). An example of a multiple agreement could be the G20 Energy Ministers’ summit in 2015.  At this summit, led by Turkey, access to energy for all, energy efficiency, inefficient fossil fuel, inefficient fossil fuel and renewable energy subsidies, transparency of markets, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies were discussed. Discussions on clean energy, particularly focusing on improving energy investments and concrete projects in sub-Saharan Africa (Inclusive Energy Collaboration and G20 Energy Access ​Action Plan2015) were also included in the meeting.

In recent years, searches in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea have breathed new life into Turkey’s energy supply security and diplomacy. In the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt began to conclude Exclusive Economic Zone agreements with Lebanon, Syria and Israel to extract and transport natural gas reserves to the European market. Meeting in Cairo in 2019, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt announced the creation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum and wanted to implement a pipeline project called East-Med. But the announced unilateral MEB treaties ignore the existence of Turkey and the TRNC. In addition, Turkey has made its presence felt in the Eastern Mediterranean by signing a memorandum with Libya, declaring that it will not recognize any exclusive economic zone agreement that it is not in before the United Nations (UN) (Eris, 2019; Tuna, 2020).


Energy is an important issue in terms of both economic and diplomatic power. Often World Wars, turmoil in the Middle East and instability in the Caucasus occur through energy showdowns of developed countries. Turkey is in an important place in terms of energy supply security due to its geopolitical position. Both its proximity to the Caucasus, the Middle East and its role as a bridge between Asia and Europe make Turkey indispensable in world energy diplomacy. Turkey is trying to guarantee energy security and establish regional peace by making necessary talks and agreements in a regional and global way. However, Turkey, which has such a positive position, gives its current account deficit mostly through energy expenditures. What Turkey needs to do here is to increase its energy diversity without being dependent on a single source and exporter country. So, the necessary diplomatic negotiations should continue in the search in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and energy diplomacy should be conducted within the framework of the win-win principle and based on cooperation.

Prepared by İlkem Karahüseyinoğlu for The FEAS Journal.


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