Russia readies new gas link to Europe in defiance of US

Russia officially opened its TurkStream natural gas pipeline on Wednesday, further diversifying export routes to Europe amid a backlash from the U.S.

President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Istanbul to inaugurate the pipeline in a ceremony celebrating the nations’ energy and political ties. TurkStream is set to carry Russian gas under the Black Sea to Turkey and supply several countries in southeastern Europe once fully operational, just as U.S. sanctions stall another Gazprom PJSC export line.

TurkStream consists of two pipelines running together underwater, each with an annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters. Gas via the link has been flowing to Turkey and Bulgaria since Jan. 1, according to utility Bulgargaz. A combination of existing and new pipelines will subsequently take supplies to Serbia and later on to Hungary.

The project allows Russian producer Gazprom to achieve two strategic aims. First, it may help the company increase its market share in Turkey, currently among the top three buyers of its gas. Second, Gazprom can reduce its dependence on Ukraine as a transit route, a key objective following years of strained political relations between the two neighbors.