Liz Truss Becomes UK’s New PM: Time to Ramp up UK-Caspian Cooperation
Author: Josephine Freund
Sep 12, 2022
As of September 6, 2022, Liz Truss assumed the role of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party following her time as Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs.
Truss’s election comes at a time of dire need for strong policy strategy, especially as the energy crisis looms in Europe and the UK. Truss, upon her ascendency to Prime Minister, will have to deal with mitigating the hard-hitting effects of the steep rise in wholesale gas prices. The increase comes as Russia has halted supply of gas to Europe in a response to EU sanctions on Russia for its war on Ukraine. While normally the UK imports just 4 percent of its gas from Russia, there have been instances where the UK has relied on Europe to supply about a quarter of its fuel needs.
The energy crisis will cause electricity bills in the UK to rise considerably that are bound to lead to increased poverty, even with Truss’s proposed price cap. According to BBC climate editor Justin Rowlatt, Truss and her new Cabinet have already set in motion plans to rely more on the renewables sector and have been drafting long-term contracts with fixed-prices under current rates.
Since her appointment as Prime Minister, Truss has already received words of encouragement from multiple Caspian Region countries. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev congratulated Truss on her appointment and in his letter remarked on the role Azerbaijan has played and can play in UK energy security and overall economic prosperity: “The United Kingdom is one of the biggest trade partners of Azerbaijan. The companies representing your country, including BP as our reliable partner in oil and gas production, are successfully operating in Azerbaijan, and involved in the implementation of a number of important projects. Our long-lasting and fruitful collaboration in the energy sector, one of [the] priority areas of our cooperation, plays an important role in ensuring global energy security.”
Looking to Azerbaijan during this energy crisis should be a key facet of Truss’s agenda. Since Russia’s war on Ukraine, Azerbaijan has stepped up its cooperation with the EU to counter the EU’s previous reliance on Russian energy. On July 18, Azerbaijan and the European Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding on strategic partnership in which Azerbaijan would more than double natural gas imports to Europe by 2027 as well as help cooperation on renewable energy projects and improve connectivity.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in a congratulatory telegram remarked on the historic friendship between the UK and Kazakhstan and of his “readiness to working closely with you to further elevate the Kazakh-British multifaceted cooperation and coordinate our approaches on the pressing global issues.” Kazakhstan too, has been a key player amidst the current global energy crisis that has deeply affected the UK, and so, too, should be on Truss’s radar. This is especially true, as its energy-supply potential has been thwarted by its pipelines having to go through Russian Black Sea ports.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also congratulated Truss on her election, mentioning his eagerness to continue the UK-and Armenia’s cooperation on rule of law and human rights. He also emphasized the sentiment that there “still is untapped potential in our bilateral relations, and I expect to closely cooperate with the new government of the United Kingdom in revealing and utilizing this potential to enrich the Armenian-British agenda with new projects."
The end of Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister was notably marked by his steadfast opposition to Russia’s war on Ukraine. He doubled down on supporting Ukraine and on chastising the Kremlin for its actions. In this vein, he enacted swift and hard-hitting sanctions on Russia as well as on people connected to the Kremlin. His show of strength against Russia’s aggression, while important, did inevitably contribute to the current energy crisis at hand felt in the EU and UK.
Despite this, Johnson’s final two moves as Prime Minister were to call Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and call Türkiye’s President Recep-Tayyip Erdoğan. In his discussion with Erdoğan, Johnson thanked him for Türkiye’s role in ending Russia’s grain blockade on Ukraine and discussed the importance of maintaining strong economic sanctions on Russia. Johnson understood the importance of Türkiye and the Greater Caspian Region’s role in maintaining global order, especially regarding energy. With Truss’s new role as Prime Minister coinciding with the global energy crisis, now is the time more than ever for the UK to foster stronger ties with countries of the Caspian Region.