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Turkey Cuts Russian Gas Imports As Tensions Between Them Grow

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Turkish government announced Wednesday it will cut Russian gas imports by 25 percent in 2016, as Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have evidence of Turkish complicity with Islamic State oil smuggling.

The ever-increasing tension between the two countries began when Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber jet that penetrated Turkish airspace last weekend. Putin alleges the plane was shot down in retaliation for Russian bombing campaigns against ISIS oil smugglers, many of whom do business on the Turkish black market.

Russia sanctioned Turkey in response to the downing of the jet. Turkey then blockaded Russian ships from entering the strategically crucial Turkish Straits, hampering the Russian Black Fleet’s access to Syria. (RELATED: Turkey’s Erdogan Just Made A Promise He Probably Can’t Keep)

As Russia’s second largest trade partner, Turkey imports a significant amount of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG). As one of the world’s largest energy exporters, Russia controls a large share of the energy market through the energy giant Gazprom.

The effects on Russia go beyond losing a quarter of the Turkish LNG market, which will apparently be replaced by U.S. imports. The decision could also put the Turkish Stream Project in jeopardy. The planned project intends to connect Russian energy to Europe via Turkey and Greece.

The Russian government has released undated satellite imagery which supposedly proves Turkish involvement in the ISIS oil smuggling operation. Russia’s imagery has not been corroborated. State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied the Russian claim. “We frankly see no evidence, none, to support such an accusation,” he said.

While the Turkish government has claimed to have made efforts to curb ISIS oil smuggling on the Syrian-Turkish border, Turkish border guards have been found engaging in the ISIS oil smuggling operation in the past. It is unknown whether or not the Turkish government leadership has knowledge or has been complicit in the border guard corruption.

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