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Here’s why pragmatism is the most successful way to govern a country

The examples of Ataturk, Brezhnev and Deng Xiaoping demonstrate important lessons in governance for contemporary zealots like Erdogan.




Pragmatism is the most assured guiding force for good government. It is possible to run a government based on ideology or its close cousin, fanaticism, but rarely do such things end up being successful.

More often than not, the antithesis of pragmatism ends in failure.

The controversial 20th century British politician Enoch Powell once remarked,

“All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs”.

This is true not only of individual politicians but also of political systems which are governed by extreme forces which sooner or later come up against the brick wall of manifest realities.

It is of course possible to govern a country whose Constitution has an ideological component and do so in a manner that is pragmatic.

Two great examples of this are Ataturk in the early Turkish Republic and Leonid Brezhnev during the halcyon days of the Soviet Union.

Ataturk led a ferocious resistance against what he saw as a humiliation of the Turkish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres.

Many of these grievances were eventually settled in Turkey’s favour in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

However, many Turks were still raging against the loss of Ottoman territory to Balkan powers as well as the loss of Ottoman territory in the Arab world. Many were desirous of Turkey to capture former territories of the South Caucuses which by the 1920s had become a part of the Soviet Union.

However, on each of these fronts, Ataturk resisted the more extreme calls for further war and conflict and ended up making peace with many of Turkey’s historic enemies.

In 1921, Ataturk and Lenin signed a Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood between Soviet Russia and Republican Turkey. It was the first such treaty of its kind between a Turkish and Russian state.


The Soviet state and Ataturk’s Republican Turkey were young states who were still in the midst of civil conflict in 1921. Each country pragmatically showed solidarity with the other as both sought to set aside past conflicts and accept emerging new realities at face value. It was a bold and correct move by both Lenin and Ataturk. In Lenin’s case it was quite possibly his most important early foreign policy move and one of his few foreign policy moves which wasn’t ill advised, the Treaty of  Brest-Litovsk being Lenin’s most catastrophic moment.

Ataturk went on to make peace with an even more ancient enemy; The Hellenic Republic. For centuries, the Hellenic people had been occupied by Ottoman Turkey. Between 1919 and 1922, the Kingdom of Greece fought Turkey over the restoration of historic Greek lands in East Thrace and Western Anatolia. The war ended in a Turkish victory.

However, by the early 1930s, Ataturk and Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos signed an accord designed to end centuries of war and hatred between the two peoples.

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Turkey and Greece signed a treaty of friendship in 1930 and a more formal Entente Cordiale in 1933. Such a move would have been unthinkable even in the 1920s, let alone in the preceding five centuries.

This paved the way for a Balkan Pact wherein Turkey recognised the sovereignty of the Balkan states which Turkey once ruled as a colonial overlord. It was a bold move and one which ultimately helped bring a measure of peace to one of Europe’s most fraught regions.

Ataturk also made peace with Iran, Britain and accepted Turkey’s losses in the Arab world, something which Erdogan has been violently trying to reverse.


Ataturk’s pragmatism helped turn a young Turkish Republic from a cauldron of war into a stable country at peace with its many formerly adversarial neighbours. This was without doubt one of the most remarkable accomplishments in modern history. Ataturk may have had a Constitution that was ideologically secular and nationalistic, but he generally governed through compromise, reconciliation and realism.

Turning to the Soviet Union under its most successful leader, Leonid Brezhnev, one sees a Communist state, but one governed by a man interested in preserving both Soviet strength as well as geo-political peace.

Brezhnev’s rhetoric did not include the firebrand extremism of his wily predecessor Nikita Khrushchev, nor did it rule through the iron first of Stalin. Brezhnev was able to increase Soviet power and prestige abroad while bringing the Soviet people their highest living standards and internal peace in history.

Brezhnev walked quietly but carried a big stick. His steadfastness and measured strength led western leaders to do what they had never done before, not with Imperial Russia nor with the early Soviet Union. They came to the table to acknowledge the borders and sovereignty of the USSR and made a vow to renounce violence as a means of settling disputes.


READ MORE: The importance of the Helsinki Accords: The last time the West respected Russia

All of the sudden, western aggression against Russia had evaporated, albeit temporarily. The Russian lands which British political scientist Halford John Mackinde described as a ‘pivot area’ that western powers should use in their attempts to subdue Asia, were now sovereign according to an international agreement.

Sadly, under the ideological fanaticism of Mikhail Gorbachev and his lieutenant Alexander Yakovlev, the Soviet Union ssacrificed its stability which Brezhnev secured, on the altar of forceful ‘westernisation’. This led to the very collapse of the state which Gorbachev thought he was saving.

Had a pragmatic Deng Xiaoping type of figure emerged in Soviet Union of the 1980s, things may have turned out differently. Deng Xiaoping was of course the pragmatic reformist who was able to maintain China’s sovereignty while modernising the economy, paving the way for China’s economic super-power status that it enjoys today.

deng and g

Turkey’s President Erdogan would be wise to learn from the pragmatism of Ataturk, Brezhnev and Deng. Ataturk in particular, as a comparatively recent Turkish example, was a man whose influence on Turkey has eroded more rapidly under Erdogan than many could have imagined or feared.

It is only through pragmatism that a state becomes strong in the long term. The zeal of ideologues like Ergodan often leads to ruin.

It is why Ataturk himself cautioned, “They go as they come”.

they go

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran



Authored by Al Masdar News:

Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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OPEC Plus: Putin’s move to control energy market with Saudi partnership (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 150.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss OPEC Plus and the growing partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which aims to reshape the energy market, and cement Russia’s leadership role in global oil and gas supply.

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Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ WILL survive

The Express UK reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ will not only survive, but grow, regardless of geopolitical turmoil and internal Saudi scandal…as the energy interests between both nations bind them together.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have a “long-term relationship” which is strategically beneficial to both of them, and which underlines their position as the world’s most influential oil producers, alongside the United States, an industry expert has said.

Following concerns about too much oil flooding the market, Saudi Arabia on Sunday performed an abrupt u-turn by deciding to reduce production by half a million barrels a day from December.

This put the Middle Eastern country at odds with Russia, which said it was no clear whether the market would be oversupplied next year, with market analysts predicting the country’s oil producing companies likely to BOOST proaction by 300,000 barrels per day.

But IHS Markit vice chairman Daniel Yergin said the decision was unlikely to jeopardise the relationship between the two allies.

The Saudis have faced significant international criticism in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr Yergin made it clear that Moscow and Riyadh would continue to be closely aligned irrespective of external factors.

He explained: “I think it’s intended to be a long-term relationship and it started off about oil prices but you see it taking on other dimensions, for instance, Saudi investment in Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Russian investment in Saudi Arabia.

“I think this is a strategic relationship because it’s useful to both countries.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia are close, especially as a result of their pact in late 2016, along with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers, to curb output by 1.8 million barrels per day in order to prevent prices dropping too far – but oil markets have changed since then, largely as a result.

The US criticised OPEC, which Saudi Arabia is the nominal leader of, after prices rose.

Markets have fluctuated in recent weeks as a result of fears over a possible drop in supply, as a result of US sanctions on Iran, and an oversupply, as a result of increased production by Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, which have seen prices fall by about 20 percent since early October.

Saudi Arabia has pumped 10.7 million barrels per day in October, while the figure for Russiaand the US was 11.4 million barrels in each case.

Mr Yergin said: “It’s the big three, it’s Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, this is a different configuration in the oil market than the traditional OPEC-non-OPEC one and so the world is having to adjust.”

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley told CNBC: “The OPEC-plus agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia and coalition is a lot stronger than people speculate.

“I think Russia doesn’t have the ability to turn on and off big fields which can happen in the Middle East.

“But I fully expect there to be coordination to try to keep the oil price within a certain fairway.”

Markets rallied by two percent on Monday off the back of the , which it justified by citing uncertain global oil growth and associated oil demand next year.

It also suggested  granted on US sanctions imposed on Iran which have been granted to several countries including China and Japan was a reason not to fear a decline in supply.

Also talking to CNBC, Russia’s Oil Minister Alexander Novak indicated a difference of opinion between Russia and the Saudis, saying it was too soon to cut production, highlighting a lot of volatility in the oil market.

He added: “If such a decision is necessary for the market and all the countries are in agreement, I think that Russia will undoubtedly play a part in this.

“But it’s early to talk about this now, we need to look at this question very carefully.”

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Nigel Farage lashes out at Angela Merkel, as Chancellor attends EU Parliament debate (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 17.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Nigel Farage’s blistering speech, aimed squarely at Angela Merkel, calling out the German Chancellor’s disastrous migrant policy, wish to build an EU army, and Brussels’ Cold War rhetoric with Russia to the East and now the United States to the West.

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