Since the Russo-Ukrainian War, relations between Europe and Russia have been severed. Within the scope of the sanctions imposed, Europe stopped buying energy from Russia and turned to new alternatives. In this process, the geographies where Europe concentrated were the Caucasus and Central Asia centered on the Caspian Basin. Particularly, high-level visits to the region has occurred from Germany.
In the relations developed between Central Asia and Europe, Kazakhstan has become one of the main actors due to its rich energy resources. The Astana administration also attached importance to the relations established to accelerate its economic development and invited Western investors to its country. On the other hand, the Astana administration has also started to look for ways to transfer underground resources to the West. In this process, Kazakhstan, which turned to Azerbaijan, started to export energy through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline.
Otherwise, the Astana administration, which wants to develop various alternative routes, wants to move Moscow to the south; that is, to the north using Russian pipelines against the desire to reach Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India; therefore, the administration gave the message that it wanted to reach Europe. As a matter of fact, after the talks on the Astana-Moscow line, a consensus was reached between the parties.
In this context, Kazakhstan will begin to send energy to Germany. In this process, the Druzhba Pipeline, which Europe has not sanctioned, will be used. In this context, Kazakhstan plans to send 20,000 tons of oil to Germany in January 2023; It was decided to increase the said amount to at least 1.5 million tons by the end of the year and, if necessary, to 7 million tons. Considering that Germany imported 20 million tons of oil from Russia in the pre-war period, the amount that Kazakhstan will send is at a level that will give Germany a breather, even if it does not save Germany from the energy crisis.
At this point, it is a significant question why Russia has approved the shipment of Kazakh oil through Druzhba. Because the relations between the West and Russia are at the lowest levels in history. There is also an important security dilemma. The parties demonstrate a strong will to increase their military capabilities. Therefore, it can be said that the parties do not want to approve a development that will give each other a breather. But it is also clear that Moscow has different plans and goals.
With the approval of the Druzhba Pipeline, the Kremlin administration is sending a message that Europe still needs Russia for energy. Russia, which has turned energy into a trump card against the West, is trying to build a bloc through energy with the policies it implements today. Some countries are not warm to the bloc that Russia wants to establish within the scope of their national interests and independent foreign policies. Russia, on the other hand, aims to show that it still remains an effective actor through various energy routes. Considering that an energy sent from Central Asia passes through safe routes and at relatively low cost, it is understood that Russia is trying to give some messages through Druzhba.
However, although Russia wants to build a bloc on energy, it cannot get a clear answer even from the countries in its immediate geography. One of the most important examples of this is the “gas union” proposal offered to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan has not given a clear response and Uzbekistan has declared its opposition to the union. In the face of this situation, Russia may have consented to the use of Druzhba to convince Kazakhstan.
Currently, Russia wants to reach various markets, mainly India and China, through the cheapest and least risky routes. India, in particular, has recently become one of Russia’s most important customers. Energy is already being sent to China via Kazakhstan. However, it is important that this is sustainable. At this point, the Moscow administration seems to have approved Kazakhstan’s use of Russian pipelines for exports to Germany by approaching the issue through a win-win policy.
On the other hand, Russia’s geopolitical importance has decreased due to the war in Ukraine. In particular, the closure of the Northern Corridor has led to the importance of lines such as the Middle Corridor. Therefore, it can be said that Russia is trying to increase its gains through the Druzhba Pipeline and to eliminate its lost geopolitical importance. In addition, Moscow aims to send a message to Europe through Druzhba that energy lines and corridors should not be included in the scope of sanctions and that this is in Europe’s favor.
One of Russia’s goals is to increase its influence in world politics, especially in the post-Soviet geography. The outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian War and the serious losses of the Russian Army on the ground showed that the political, military and economic capacity of the country in question was not as high as thought. In other words, it can be said that Russia is seeking to maintain its influence through Druzhba.
In addition to all this, Russia is trying to make various cracking voices within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). One of the most important states that can be a candidate for this is Germany which argues that Europe should act more independently than the United States of America (USA). Because there is an important competition between Germany and European actors, such as Poland which adopts policies close to both the United States, and the United States. In order for the Berlin administration to implement its targeted policies and to have a strong hand against Washington, it needs to be able to act more independently on energy. Being aware of this, Russia is trying to provide Germany with an environment in which it can act more independently through Kazakh oil.
As a result, Russia is going through an extremely difficult period. However, it is looking for ways to maintain its power and influence with various policies it has developed. At this point, Moscow pays attention to use its trump cards as an effective tool. One of the latest examples of this is the export of Kazakh oil to Germany via the Druzhba Pipeline. With this policy, Moscow shows that it aims to maintain its influence especially in energy geopolitics. It also seeks to prove that sanctions on power lines are hurting Europe. Therefore, while Russia is trying to protect its economy, influence, and power; It is taking steps to deepen divisions within the West.
 Almaz Kumenov, “Kazakhstan to Send Oil to Germany via Russian Pipeline”, Eurasianet, https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-to-send-oil-to-germany-via-russian-pipeline, (Date of Accession: 19.01.2022).