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Here’s why Russia’s backing Turkey’s resurgence as a Mideast power

Moscow sees Ankara’s rise as beneficial to its long-term interests

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(New Eastern Outlook) – When Ataturk founded modern Turkey he took advantage of the one moment in history when Turkish nationalism had an exclusive character. Turkish political leaders have always had a deep-seated need to project themselves everywhere, and not only within their former empire. You can’t run Turkey and allow it to be on the fringes of Europe and Asia: it must be a leading player in both, or the locals won’t stand for it.

It takes little imagination to see that Turkey has a Grand Plan in its old stomping ground of the Middle East. It has shown that it is willing to break ranks with other NATO members and put its own needs first, even when ostensibly part of the same operation. It is not happy with anyone else shaping the region to suit themselves, but this is not because they are rivals of Turkey but because they are not Turkey itself.

Most recently Turkey has been with working with the Free Syrian Army, but fighting other less embedded terrorists rather than Assad. This is not because it is threatened by those terrorists, but because it is seeking to balance what the US in doing in its so-called war on terrorism – working hand-in-hand with the PKK and Kurdish fighters in Syria and the region, who are currently bigger threats to Turkey than Syria.

Turkey’s interests in Syria, and Mosul, centre on oil. As long as oil flows, illegally, from these places to Turkish industry and the country’s overseas clients Turkey doesn’t mind Syria being carved up in the process. However US actions put the PKK, and Kurds in general, closer to that oil. Ankara won’t have the resources to resist its domestic Kurds, or threaten anyone else, if the PKK gets its hands on the oil.

But for domestic consumption all this is being framed as a national crusade. Turkey feels it is entitled to all the resources of its former empire. Even if these countries are independent, they are still expected to pay due deference to Turkey as their former master, in the same way members of the Commonwealth are expected to follow the UK’s lead in international affairs and resource exploitation. If they don’t, Turkey is prepared to fight to regain what was once its own, because it wouldn’t be Turkey if it didn’t take charge.

All this is laid out in Turkey’s National Pact, a document Erdogan suggested the Prime Minister of Iraq should read to understand Turkey’s interest in Mosul. The pro-government Turkish media are also redrawing Turkey’s borders in a series of maps, including a number of areas Turkey still has a historical claim to.

But why is Turkey being allowed to get away with this, when this independent action would see it branded as an aggressor under other circumstances? 

Accidental equivalence

Turkey is being allowed to think it can reclaim its old glory because Russia sees Turkish dominance of the Middle East as beneficial to itself in the long-term. It would balance the US presence there, and provide the threat that if Russia is branded as the enemy for ever more the West might lose Turkey too.

Despite all its efforts to demonise Turkey and Muslims, the West doesn’t really want Turkey on the opposite side, because it also has historical memory. To appease the millions of EU citizens whose homelands were ruled by the Ottomans for 500 years, it would have to deal with Russia as a partner, however much those same people also hate the Russians.

This was confirmed by the recent Turkish military action in Syria, which was undertaken in collaboration with the Russians. It was only a year ago that Turkey shot down a Russian jet over Syria, an action which had severe diplomatic repercussions. Russia would not be working with Turkey, or vice versa, unless the two countries had identified a mutual interest which overrode any conflict between them.

The basis of this mutual interest is spelled out in the Astana memorandum, signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey. This establishes de-escalation areas in a number of locations in Syria, in which conflict is supposed to end and humanitarian assistance is to be provided, which will be policed by these three countries. It confirms that the three countries will continue to fight ISIS and other groups declared terrorist by the UN, but that everyone else should respect a ceasefire within these zones.

According to global affairs analyst Patrick Henningsen, this memorandum reformulates the language of the Syrian conflict from the fabricated, inverted reality used by NATO and moves its centre of gravity eastwards, by making the regional powers responsible for resolving the conflict. As a Kremlin press release from Sept. 25 says: “The Syrian de-escalation zones give an opening for putting an end to the civil war in the country and for a political settlement of the crisis based on respect for Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

This action is a direct contradiction of the US and NATO policy of removing Assad because he is considered the greater threat. The nature of the de-escalation zones, as spelled out, also makes them starkly different to the demilitarised zones established by NATO during the Balkan Wars, which were never demilitarised from within but became arms dumps from which attacks on Serbs were launched with impunity.

Furthermore, it was the US which instigated the Syrian conflict by selecting “moderate” terrorists it could use to create a Kurdish state in the region. If other powers walk in and sort it out, more attention will be paid to this, and US freedom of action in other countries will be curtailed. We might also note that US-Turkish relations have been on the rocks since Washington refused to extradite the US-based Gulen to Turkey. With Trump under pressure in the US for alleged illegal links with the Russians, it will soon be asked why this action was taken, when it produced the diplomatic outcome Russia wanted but the West didn’t.

For all these reasons, these zones present a challenge to the West. But if this challenge is met head on this will drive Turkey into Russia’s orbit, not Europe’s, and all parties concerned know Europe hasn’t got the nerve to do that.

Strategic Depth is deeper than we thought

To gain greater insight into what is becoming a consistent Turkish policy, the place to start is the 2001 book by Ahmet Davutoğlu called Strategic Depth. In this the former Prime Minister talks about creating Lebensraum for the Turkish people. He also promotes his version of pan-Islamism, which unlike some other versions makes the term synonymous with neo-Ottomanism.

As a piece of political theory, this book presented a point of view. But Davutoglu was not only Turkey’s Prime Minister but Minister of Foreign Affairs. Until his resignation on 5 May 2016 he was considered the architect of a new Turkish foreign policy, which is exactly what he said it should be in his book.

This is why some question Davutoglu’s actual importance in foreign policy. It is very convenient to say that others wrote the policy, or that things just happened that way, when people know how much of Mein Kampf  became a reality a few years after that book had been openly published, and been made required reading, when those who had actually read it had a responsibility to prevent such things occurring.

Drawing new maps on TV is not a harmless pastime. It is often forgotten that Indira Gandhi’s famous attack on the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holy shrine of the Sikh community , was largely driven by separatist Sikhs publishing a map of their separate “Khalistan” homeland which included New Delhi. On Argentinian maps the Falkland Islands are described as belonging to Argentina, the British ownership of them being deemed illegal. As in Gandhi’s reverse case, it was inevitable that when the Buenos Aires government had other problems it would show how big it was by enforcing this historic claim, even if that brought that government down.

Maybe Europe, despite being full of old empires, thought the Turks weren’t serious, or wouldn’t dare because they wanted Europe too much. But it is that desire for Europe, and Europe’s encouragement of it for its own ends, which have helped create the present situation, which Erdogan has once twisted into one in which he can’t lose.

Erdogan has complained publicly about the Treaty of Lausanne, which drew modern Turkey’s borders after the Ottoman Empire was dismembered after World War I https://www.voanews.com/a/turkey-erdogan-treaty-of-lausanne-borders/3547651.html. He says it made the country too small, and put many ethnic Turks outside its boundaries. The corollary of this is that those of other nationalities, such as Kurds and Armenians, who were included in the new Turkey should be able to separate from it. But Erdogan would not accept that, because ethnic homogeneity was not the point he was making.

Erdogan reckons that the Treaty of Lausanne should be set aside because Turkey is on the right side of global politics, not a vanquished enemy as it was then. After all, the West keeps telling it how important a strategic ally it is, and Turkey has housed US and NATO bases for a very long time, even when it was a military dictatorship seemingly at odds with Western rhetoric about what countries should be.

Turkey should be rewarded for good behaviour, says Erdogan. If not, it will have no obligation to play others, game anymore, and will do what it wants to redress the Western insult.  It has all the tools it needs to settle accounts, lots of unpaid proxy fighters and refugees, official and unofficial to toss across the border to flow to Old Europe, especially Germany, as the preferred venue.

Russia does not want Turkey calling the shots alone, and neither does Turkey want its old empire dominated by the Russians who liberated large chunks of it. But they both know the West doesn’t want either of them to expand their influence either.

The two countries can best achieve that by working together. The Western need for Turkey provides both countries with a protective shield, and when Russia has played its usual game of demonstrating how the West has compromised itself it is more likely to put Turkey in direct control of the new reality rather than stay itself, as Turkey would be happy to do Russia’s bidding to remain in that position provided it could pretend to its own public that it was really in charge again.

The Middle Eastern peoples also have historical memories of the Turks. They have no more wish to see them in charge again than East Europeans do. But those very historical memories encourage them to play a long game. If Turkey can help them remove the US, a disease of the skin, the Middle Eastern countries can preserve their souls, and they can deal with the Turks at a later date.

US plans for a Kurdish State are being undone, to the delight of Turkey, and with efforts to eliminate Assad faltering it is likely to be totally expelled from Syria. The Middle East has too much oil to be allowed to run its own affairs. So someone will have to fill the void, and from a US point of view too that may as well be Turkey, if it has to be. At least it is still technically a Western ally, and if the West helps it run the Middle East this might turn it away from Russia, which current US policy has failed to accomplish.

At least for now it would also be in the Western interest to allow Turkey a freer hand in the Middle East, so it gains no benefit from allying with Russia. Such an arrangement would ignore the local population, but that is what the US does all the time. It would help the US even more if it turned Turkey’s increased influence in the Middle East into an extension of present US policy, beating the Russians again whilst behaving just as badly as ever.

Credit: Henry Kamens

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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At Age 70, Time To Rethink NATO

The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.”

So said President Charles De Gaulle, who in 1966 ordered NATO to vacate its Paris headquarters and get out of France.

NATO this year celebrates a major birthday. The young girl of 1966 is no longer young. The alliance is 70 years old.

And under this aging NATO today, the U.S. is committed to treat an attack on any one of 28 nations from Estonia to Montenegro to Romania to Albania as an attack on the United States.

The time is ripe for a strategic review of these war guarantees to fight a nuclear-armed Russia in defense of countries across the length of Europe that few could find on a map.

Apparently, President Donald Trump, on trips to Europe, raised questions as to whether these war guarantees comport with vital U.S. interests and whether they could pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The shock of our establishment that Trump even raised this issue in front of Europeans suggests that the establishment, frozen in the realities of yesterday, ought to be made to justify these sweeping war guarantees.

Celebrated as “the most successful alliance in history,” NATO has had two histories. Some of us can yet recall its beginnings.

In 1948, Soviet troops, occupying eastern Germany all the way to the Elbe and surrounding Berlin, imposed a blockade on the city.

The regime in Prague was overthrown in a Communist coup. Foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell, or was thrown, from a third-story window to his death. In 1949, Stalin exploded an atomic bomb.

As the U.S. Army had gone home after V-E Day, the U.S. formed a new alliance to protect the crucial European powers — West Germany, France, Britain, Italy. Twelve nations agreed that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on them all.

Cross the Elbe and you are at war with us, including the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal, Stalin was, in effect, told. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returned to Europe to send the message that America was serious.

Crucial to the alliance was the Yalta line dividing Europe agreed to by Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the 1945 Crimean summit on the Black Sea.

U.S. presidents, even when monstrous outrages were committed in Soviet-occupied Europe, did not cross this line into the Soviet sphere.

Truman did not send armored units up the highway to Berlin. He launched an airlift to break the Berlin blockade. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian rebels in 1956. JFK confined his rage at the building of the Berlin Wall to the rhetorical: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

LBJ did nothing to help the Czechs when, before the Democratic convention in 1968, Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact tank armies to crush the Prague Spring.

When the Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa was crushed in Gdansk, Reagan sent copy and printing machines. At the Berlin Wall in 1988, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Reagan never threatened to tear it down himself.

But beginning in 1989, the Wall was torn down, Germany was united, the Red Army went home, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the USSR broke apart into 15 nations, and Leninism expired in its birthplace.

As the threat that had led to NATO disappeared, many argued that the alliance created to deal with that threat should be allowed to fade away, and a free and prosperous Europe should now provide for its own defense.

It was not to be. The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

This, said Kennan, would “inflame the nationalistic and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations.” Kennan was proven right.

America is now burdened with the duty to defend Europe from the Atlantic to the Baltic, even as we face a far greater threat in China, with an economy and population 10 times that of Russia.

And we must do this with a defense budget that is not half the share of the federal budget or the GDP that Eisenhower and Kennedy had.

Trump is president today because the American people concluded that our foreign policy elite, with their endless interventions where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled, had bled and virtually bankrupted us, while kicking away all of the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Halfway into Trump’s term, the question is whether he is going to just talk about halting Cold War II with Russia, about demanding that Europe pay for its own defense, and about bringing the troops home — or whether he is going to act upon his convictions.

Our foreign policy establishment is determined to prevent Trump from carrying out his mandate. And if he means to carry out his agenda, he had best get on with it.

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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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