The Issue of Energy in Central Asia and the Role of Turkmenistan

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Central Asian countries have notable reserves in the world in terms of energy resources. For example, according to the report on Central Asia published by the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2022, the total amount of oil in the region is 31.2 billion barrels and the amount of natural gas is 23.4 trillion cubic meters.[1] The oil and natural gas resources of Central Asia increase the geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geostrategic value of the region. Because of this reason, interest in the region increased after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Today, the region continues to be an attractive area for regional and global powers.

Crises such as the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, and the Russia-Ukraine War, witnessed by the world in the 21st century, have brought the issue of “energy security” to the agenda in terms of regional and global powers. The rising in instability in the Middle East and the influence that the United States of America (USA) is trying to establish over energy countries have made energy security more important for various countries, especially China. In this regard, energy security constitutes one of the important issues of international relations.

The recent Western sanctions against Russia have brought some consequences. According to the agreement reached between the European Union (EU) and the G7 in December 2022, an agreement was reached on a ceiling price on global imports of Russian oil.[2] This decision has two essential consequences. First, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decision banning oil sales to countries that will implement the EU’s decision. Another is that Russia, Europe’s largest natural gas supplier, and the world’s second-largest oil exporter, turned to India and China to sell energy at a cheaper rate.

All these developments paved the way for the formation of a competitive environment in energy. In other words, the EU has turned to various alternatives. Central Asian countries have also been remarkable centers at this point and strengthened their relations with other countries. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan rank first in terms of reserves such as oil, natural gas, and coal in Central Asian countries. Looking at the distribution of world natural gas reserves by country, it is seen that Turkmenistan ranks fourth after Russia, Iran, and Qatar, respectively.[3]

While Turkmenistan exports natural gas to Central Asian countries, China and Iran; it is also closely interested in the EU market. In January 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he wanted to cooperate more with Turkmenistan in the field of energy.[4] Turkmenistan is the single largest natural gas supplier to China. In this case, it can be said that Turkmenistan has a significant place for China in the energy supply.

On the other hand, the Russia-Ukraine War caused the energy crisis to come to the fore in the EU countries, and while the union was looking for a solution to the energy crisis; it oriented to Central Asia. In addition, the new customer potential has been an important development for the Central Asian countries that have taken steps in economic development. However, time is needed to transport energy between Turkmenistan and Europe. Naturally, Turkmenistan continues to export energy to the regional states and China instead of the potential market opportunity in Europe.

As a result, it is seen that the balances in the energy field have changed with the Russia-Ukraine War. Central Asian countries are also important producers at this point. However, the infrastructures of the countries require to be renewed. In this process, where energy security is discussed more, some projects based in Central Asia are on the agenda. This is because the process has increased the importance of Central Asia to the West. At this point, it can be stated that the prominent actor is Turkmenistan.

[1] Ivo Walinga-Farkhod Aminjonov, “Advancing Energy Security in Central Asia”, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,, (Date of Accession: 27.01.2023), s. 6.

[2] “Explained: How G7 Country’s Price Ceiling on Russian Crude will Impact Russia”, Explainers, (Date of Accession: 26.01.2023).

[3] “Leading Countries by Proved Natural Gas Reserves Worldwide in 2010 and 2020”, Statista,, (Date of Accession: 27.01.2023).

[4] “China’s Xi Calls for Greater Cooperation with Turkmenistan on Natural Gas”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 27.01.2023).

Göksu ÇANA
Göksu Çana, 2018 yılında TOBB Ekonomi ve Teknoloji Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Siyaset Bilimi Bölümü'nden mezun olmuştur. 2022 yılında İtalya'daki Padova Üniversitesi İnsan Hakları ve Çok-Düzeyli Yönetişim Bölümü'nde yüksek lisans eğitimini tamamlayan Çana, halihazırda ANKASAM'ın çalışmalarına katkı sağlamaktadır. Çana'nın başlıca ilgili alanları; göç ve uluslararası güvenliktir. Çana iyi derecede İngilizce bilmesinin yanı sıra İspanyolca da öğrenmektedir.