Is Turkey’s Energy Dance with Russia Worth the Risk?


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As Turkey continues to tango with Russia in the energy market, one can’t help but wonder if this risky dance is truly worth it. With soaring imports and discounted deals, it’s as if they’ve found the ultimate Black Friday sale on energy resources. But is this bargain coming at too high a cost? While Ankara appears to be cutting a fine economic figure, there might just be a hidden fee waiting in the wings. More on this below.

Turkey has emerged as the primary importer of Russian energy in the Western Hemisphere following Europe’s significant reduction in Russian oil and natural gas imports, as per a recent Reuters report.

Despite its NATO membership, Turkey has opted to maintain its ties with Russia amid the Ukraine conflict, opting instead to strengthen economic collaboration and bilateral trade.

According to Reuters’ analysis based on data from the London Stock Exchange and estimates from traders, Turkish companies have pocketed approximately $2 billion in energy savings in 2023 by amplifying imports of discounted Russian oil and refined products.

“Ankara remains committed to boosting trade with its neighbor despite facing Western sanctions,” the outlet highlighted.

Reported data reveals a record surge in Russian Urals crude oil shipments to Turkey, reaching 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in November 2023, representing about 14% of Russia’s overall seaborne oil exports that month.

Anticipations indicate a further increase in supplies in the forthcoming months, with Reuters citing information from trading sources.

Turkey’s intake of Russian diesel, heating oil, jet fuel, and marine fuel also soared by 200% from January to November 2023, reaching approximately 290,000 bpd.

Traders indicate that Ankara has secured Russian diesel at prices ranging $25 to $150 less per ton (equivalent to $3.30 to $20 per barrel) compared to similar grades in the Mediterranean. Discounts for crude oil reportedly ranged between $5 and $20 per barrel.

“The reduced costs of energy imports have facilitated Turkey in narrowing its trade deficit and alleviating pressure on its currency, which has devalued by 30% this year,” Reuters highlighted.

Despite warnings from the US about potential penalties for Turkey if found aiding Russia in circumventing Western restrictions, Ankara has stood firm on its stance, affirming it has no intentions to support the sanction policy on Moscow, prioritizing its own prosperity and benefits over external pressures.

Hot take: Turkey’s energy bargain bin might be filled with discounts, but dancing with the bear might leave them with more than just sore toes.

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