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Russia and Turkey: An end to the rapprochement?

The Turkish incursion into Syria does not wreck the recent Russian – Turkish rapprochement because it is only a limited rapprochement not a realignment. In the meantime Russia is working hard to reconcile the Syrian government with the Kurds.

Alexander Mercouris

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The Turkish incursion into Syria and the Turkish capture of Jarablus have been construed by some to mean that the Turkish – Russian rapprochement is a sham. 

According to this view Erdogan, having secured concessions from Putin at the summit in St. Petersburg, has wasted no time dropping the mask, once again betraying his Russian “friend” by invading Syria.

In my opinion this is the product of the over high expectations many had of the Turkish – Russian rapprochement.  As I have said on many occasions, this is a rapprochement not a realignment.  Turkey may be angry with the US about the coup, a fact made clear by Erdogan’s decision to send only the deputy mayor of Ankara to welcome US Vice President Biden on his recent arrival in Ankara.  It has not ceased to be a US or NATO ally.

Nor is there any reason to think the Russians feel the Turkish incursion into Syria has “betrayed” them.  For a “betrayal” to have happened Erdogan would have had to mislead the Russians as to his intentions in Syria.  On the contrary Erdogan has never at any time said that his policies or intentions in Syria have changed.  Instead he has always said, and continued right up to the eve of the summit in St. Petersburg to say, that his policies in Syria are unchanged.  He still demands that President Assad must go and he still says he wants regime change in Syria.  He has even said that he does not consider Jabhat Al-Nusra – Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate – to be a terrorist organisation.  See my detailed discussion of all this here.

To repeat: what happened in St. Petersburg was a patching up of relations between Russia and Turkey, bringing them roughly back to where they were before the shooting down of the SU24 in November last year.  A number of economic deals were agreed in outline, but there were no geostrategic shifts, none were promised or demanded or (by the Russians) expected, and it was unreasonable to expect them.

As it happens the Turks say they informed the Russians in advance of their intention to move on Jarablus, and that the Russians gave the green light for it. 

That is completely plausible.  The Russians understand that for Turkey the setting up of an autonomous YPG controlled Kurdish autonomous zone along Turkey’s border with Syria is unacceptable, and that the Turks will act decisively to prevent it.  Short of going to war with Turkey Russia cannot prevent Turkey from acting in this way, and it has no reason to offend the Turks by trying to do so.

The key point to understand about the Turkish incursion is that no part of it involves areas of Syria and under the Syrian government’s actual control.  All this area is controlled either by the YPG or by ISIS. 

Nor is this area critical to the Syrian government’s survival.  That depends on the Syrian government retaining its hold on Damascus and Aleppo, the central towns of Hama and Homs, the key region of Latakia, and ultimately by recapturing the town and province of Idlib.  If the Syrian government achieves all this, then it will have secured its existence, which is the objective the Russians set themselves when they intervened in Syria last year. 

In the meantime the Russians no doubt calculate – as do the Syrians – that the north east of Syria can be left to look after itself, and that what the Turks get up to there – far away from the key battlefields in Damascus and Aleppo provinces and in Idlib province – in the end in military and strategic terms simply does not matter.  Whilst that may sound ruthless, it is the sort of ruthless calculation that sometimes has to be made in war.

That does not mean that the Russians are completely uninterested in what is going on in northeastern Syria.  However the focus of their concern will not be the Turkish incursion.  Rather it is the recent breakdown in relations between the Syrian government and the Kurdish militia the YPG. 

Whilst the YPG does not play a decisive role in the fighting in western Syria, it has been a useful ally of the Syrian army in the fighting in Aleppo and further east in the battle against ISIS.

The already severely overstretched Syrian army hardly needs more enemies in Syria, and the Russians will want to prevent the present tensions between the Syrian army and the YPG escalating into full-fledged fighting at all costs.

That this is for the Russians the key issue in north east Syria at the moment has just been confirmed at the latest Russian Foreign Ministry briefing by Maria Zakharova, Russia’s impressive Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

“As far as the situation in Syria’s Hasakeh is concerned, we are extremely worried over the sharp armed escalation in that city in the northwest of Syria between government troops and Kurdish militias.  Russia has been taking proactive steps along different channels with the aim of preventing fratricidal clashes. We are urging the parties to display restraint.  We are urging the parties to display restraint, wisdom and political conscience and responsibility and to develop the awareness all patriots have only one common enemy – terrorists.  It is obvious that terrorism is a common threat to all Syrians, who share one goal, that of saving Syria, in which all of its citizens irrespective of their ethnicity or religion should feel comfortable.”

The Russians have acted on these pleas by (as Zakharova says) taking positive action on the ground by seeking to broker truces between the Syrian government and the YPG in both Al-Hasakeh and in Aleppo, so far it must be said with only mixed results.

The Russians do possess leverage over both parties.  The Syrian government is now completely dependent on Russia for its survival, whilst Russia is the only remaining power that continues to show some sympathy for the demands for autonomy made by the YPG.  As recently as April – at a time when relations between Russia and Turkey were still very bad – the Russians were demanding that the Kurds be separately represented at the Geneva peace talks.  The Russians have not retreated from this position.  They will doubtless be reminding the YPG that if they want a role in the negotiations – and thus a role in determining the future of Syria – then in a hostile region they will need continued Russian support.

In such a fraught situation it is not beyond reason that the Russians might quietly welcome a Turkish incursion that would (as they might see it) concentrate minds on the part of the YPG – showing to the YPG who their true friends and their true enemies are, and why the US cannot be relied upon as a long term ally.

My colleague Alex Christoforou has recently pointed out how in this region it is the Russians who are increasingly the peacemakers, even as the US constantly acts to spread war there. 

Russian mediation between the Syrian government and the YPG – regardless of whether or not in the end it is successful – coming immediately after US incitement of the YPG to take up arms against the Syrian government, is just one more example of this.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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