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Turkey replaces the US as Russia’s key Middle Eastern partner from the “other side”

During his meeting with Turkey’s President Erdogan, President Putin made it clear that in spite of some lingering differences, Russia and Turkey have a relationship based on respect, pragmatism and the kind of flexibility that the US President is not allowed to exercise.

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just given a statement along with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, on the progress of a bilateral meeting which lasted over four hours.

The primary goal of the meeting from Erdogan’s perspective was to finalise the deal for the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems. The deal has been delayed because Turkey seeks the schematics of the S-400 in order to one day produce the system domestically while Russia has thus far been unwilling to provide this.

During their statements to the press, neither Erdogan or Putin mentioned the S-400 sale, however, it later emerged that the Turkish Minister stated that the deal had been completed to the satisfaction of both sides.

Putin opened his post-meeting statement by remarking on the progress towards a full normalisation of relations after an extremely strained period beginning in December of 2015, when Turkey downed a Russia jet on the Syria-Turkey border.

Because of Turkey’s increased economic reliance on Russia and Russia’s willingness to cooperate deeply on regional security issues, it is easy to forget that while relations between the two countries is very good, they have still not technically fully normalised. Both leaders expressed their desire to rectify this as soon as possible, with Putin indicating that for all intents and purposes, relations are in fact, fully restored with only a handful of issues remaining to be ironed out.

President Putin further remarked that Russia is keen to begin working on the building of a nuclear power plant in Turkey which should be partly operational by 2023. He also stated that he is happy with the progress of the so-called Turkstream gas pipeline.

Turning to the situation in Syria, Putin stated that Russia and Turkey must continue to enhance efforts in order to ensure the long term normalisation of Syria. He further stated that the two countries should assist Syrians in a political settlement to the current crisis as well as in areas of reconstruction. Putin then defined the main immediate goals in respect of Syria in the following way,

“We must insure we finish off ISIS, insure sovereignty, independence and the territorial integrity of Syrian state”.

Putin then stated that his recent visit to Iran where he discussed the Syrian situation with Iran’s President and Supreme Leader was productive and that collectively, the Astana Peace Talks have been successful in decreasing violence and creating the conditions of dialogue thanks to cooperation with both Turkey and Iran.

During the most recent Astana meeting, Turkey openly objective to the participation of Kurdish groups in the so-called “pan-Syrian dialogue” which Russia has called for.

These objections are one of the unique areas where Iran, Turkey and Syria have a clear point of view while Russia’s view is far more nuanced. Iran, Turkey and Syria are now on the same page in so far as they consider armed Kurdish led, US proxy militias in Syria to be a terrorist threat and a long-term security issue.

Russia by contrast, has previously welcomed the participation of “moderate” Kurdish factions in a political process to end the Syrian conflict and had previously been somewhat sympathetic to Kurdish demands for federal autonomy in post-conflict Syria.

The rationale for this much over-hyped and gradually closing schism is obvious enough. Syria, Iran and Turkey all have militant Kurdish terrorist groups operating on their own soil and the clear fear is that if one group gets an upper-hand over their respective central government, this could set a dangerous precedent in the region. This is why Turkey and Iran cooperated with Iraq on subduing ethno-nationalist Kurds in northern Iraq in the autumn of 2017.

Russia has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, but at the same time, due to historic links with Kurdish groups, Russia was willing to facilitate the meeting of some Kurdish demands, if possible. This is because, Russia would prefer Kurdish groups to see Russia as a guarantor of peace, rather than the United Stats which Iraqi Kurds have openly said let them down. It is also because in the past, Russia had explored the possibility of a Kurdish buffer-zone between traditional Arab allies and Turkey in order to add one more layer of protection against a once hostile NATO member in the region.

Today, both of these Russian rationales have largely been changed due to new realities on the ground. Russia’s long-time ally Syria has recently stated that it views armed Kurdish groups occupying Syrian territory as no different than Takfiri groups doing the same, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. In naming Kurdish militants as terrorists, Syria has affirmed that it is not planning on taking a soft-line against Kurdish ethno-nationalists after the conflict against Takfiri groups is inevitably won. With Iraq, Iran and Turkey all taking the same line, Russia is not about to fight for a non-state group against four states whose friendship with Russia is key to Moscow’s ability to have good relations in the region and balance out would-be power struggles in the Middle East.

Secondly, with Turkey’s relationship with Russia and its relationship with Iran improving at a fast pace and with Ankara’s relations with Washington downgrading at an equally frantic pace, the idea of a ‘buffer zone’ is becoming largely outdated. Any would-be Kurdish statelete would be US/Israeli puppet state that would only strain the regional balance of power that Russia is so keen to stabilise.

Turkey and Iran will both be happy by Russia abandoning its moderate version of Project Kurd. In return, Russia will no be well placed to insure that after remaining issues are settled, Turkey does not end up permanently occupying Syria’s Idlib, thus alleviating a grave concern of Damascus.

A longer term issue will be balancing out Iran’s legal partnership with Syria against Israel’s illegal but seemingly unstoppable threat to continue to occupy and strike Syrian targets under the pretext of Iran’s presence (however limited) in Syria.

In this sense, Russia’s deal-making with Turkey, could prove to be a useful precedent in working out a solution that keeps Syria safe once the conflict formally ends, while also insuring that Russia maintains good will with Iran, while acting to quietly restrain Israeli aggression. The progress Russia has made in terms of turning Turkey from an outspoken enemy of Syria into a country that cooperates with both Russia and Iran (as Syrian allies) is a significant achievement. Convincing Israel to cease its hostility against Syria while allowing Syria and Iran to pursue their alliance will be the next great task of Russia, as Russia is the only power capable of speaking on friendly terms with all parties in the Middle East, including the occupier entity.

It is clear that while Turkey and Russia still have a fair share of disagreements on regional security, that Turkey and Russia are now the key leaders on ‘both sides’ of the international community who will help to bring the conflict to the close in Syria.

Previously, it was thought that Russia and the United States would fulfil that role, but increasingly the US is becoming diplomatically irreverent in Syria. The illegal presence of US troops remains a concern to Syria and clearly this issue will need to be dealt with, quite possibly though Russian diplomatic channels, but when it comes to actually facilitating a settlement to the conflict which preserves Syria’s independence and territorial unity, Russia will be working primarily with Turkey, rather than the United States.

Russia of course will also be working with Iran, but as Russia and Iran are both allies of Syria, it is important that any final agreement that is signed between both Russia and Iran, also includes a geo-strategic ‘counter-weight’. As a Sunni Muslim state which for years worked against Syria’s interests, Turkey coming to the peace table is now symbolic of the defeat of Takfiri terrorism in Syria, as Ankara is now working with Russia and Iran to end a conflict that Turkey once contributed to. The US could have been in a similar position, but the failure of US diplomats to engage in meaningful discussions with Russia has left the door open for Turkey which seems all too willing to fill the void left by the United States. In order to show the Takfiris that there game is up, one of their former allies sitting at the peace table is key. That country, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Turkey.

President Putin’s feelings on his frequent and friendly meetings with Erdogan were described in the following way,

“These meetings are free from bureaucracy, from all sorts of quasi-diplomatic procedures and protocol

I believe the meetings are very productive and are grateful for that and we intend to continue in this way”.

President Erdogan responded by thanking President Putin and remarked that this is his third visit to Russia this year and his sixth meeting with Putin over all this year.

Calling Putin a “dear friend”, he agreed that it is crucial to strengthen bilateral relations and intense contacts through frequent meetings and telephone calls.

He said that he believes next year will be a “turning point in relations” as Russia hosts a year of Turkish culture and Turkey hosts a year of Russian culture.

It is clear that in spite of differences, Russia and Turkey are having a deeply productive relationship which minus the close economic ties of Russia and Turkey, could have been the kind of attitude in a would-be pragmatic and more cooperative relationship between the US and Russia.

Ultimately, the US has refused to allow Donald Trump to get close to President Putin, even in a physical sense and thus, President Erdogan who unlike Trump, is fully in charge of his country,  has filled that void. While Russia’s most important Middle Eastern allies country to be Syria and Iran, in terms of a close partner that has come in from the cold, this country is Turkey. The US, which once more or less ruled half of the middle east from another hemisphere, is nowhere to be found. The US still has the ability to invade, occupy and ultimately fail in its Middle East missions, but diplomatically, outside of a few Arab states on the Persian Gulf and Israel, its diplomatic capital is largely expired.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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