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Research Questions

  1. What impediments are there to further development of Caspian oil and natural gas resources?
  2. In particular, what issues affect the transit of these resources within Turkey?
  3. Do shortfalls in energy security in Turkey and the Caspian present a foundation for capacity-building partnerships?
  4. How can the U.S. Air Force assist Turkey in attaining its objective of becoming an energy transit hub?

With its sizeable crude oil and natural gas reserves, the Caspian region is poised to become an increasingly important energy supplier to global markets. Competition over the development of Caspian's petroleum and largely untapped natural gas reserves and control over future export routes remains intense. Russia is seeking control over export routes for these oil and gas resources for its own commercial and political ends. But Russian influence is being challenged. New oil pipeline routes to China and to the Mediterranean via Turkey are being built. Turkey aspires to become a key transit state for moving both natural gas and oil from the Caspian region and from the broader Middle East via pipelines crossing its territory. U.S.-Turkish cooperation on energy security issues offers a promising yet modest opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship. Continued successful attacks on pipelines within Turkey by Kurdish terrorists suggest pipeline security as a potential area of U.S. Air Force engagement. In the Bosporus, U.S. disaster response capabilities and the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico could prove useful for helping Turkish civilian and military leaders plan emergency responses to oil spills and other events that could block this critical waterway.

Key Findings

The Scope for Expanding U.S. Air Force-Led Cooperation with Caspian Energy Producers Is Limited

  • USAF relationships with counterparts in the Caspian region and Central Asia are dominated by the need to preserve transit routes to Afghanistan. The countries with oil and natural gas resources need to maintain a delicate balance with the region's leading powers — Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran. As a result, there are inherent limitations to security cooperation with the United States. The focus of any cooperation activities is likely to remain on such activities as border control, maritime security, and emergency response. Azerbaijan is a potential exception, given its desire to deepen security ties with the United States and to lessen the effects of longstanding congressional restrictions on aid.

U.S. Air Force Engagement with Turkey on Energy Security Looks Promising

  • Turkey continues to be an important U.S. ally. The U.S. Air Force has established important relationships with its Turkish counterparts through extensive cooperation to deal with Kurdish terrorist threats emanating from Northern Iraq. This track record, coupled with the likely increasing importance of energy security to Turkey's leaders, could create a promising yet modest opportunity to strengthen these relationships. Thus far, military cooperation in energy security has largely consisted of informal talks at the senior leader and staff levels, but these interactions could expand, and the topics could extend beyond pipeline security to include reducing vulnerabilities in the Bosporus and applying lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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