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Ramification of Russo-Turkey realignment for US policy

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Possibly something bad has happened to US policy makers and CIA-Pentagon duo as their strategy to further divide and complicate relations between Russia and Turkey misfired. The US game plan misfired thanks to the timely crushing action by Turkish government against the plotters and coup leaders who seem to have worked for quite some time under US-EU (Germany) directions to destabilize the Islamist nation so that it never becomes strong, again.

Of course, Washington never expected the coup to fail and sought President Erdogan and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood party to perish in tandem and a puppet regime under a US stooge would assume office to support Israel and USA.

Interestingly as it does happen in international politics, rather quite often, the countries that were targeted by USA, namely Russia and Turkey, got together by comprehending the hidden agenda behind the presumed Pentagon instructions to Turkish military bosses to fire down a Russian war plan that trespassed the airspace (territory) of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire, resumed their ties. This is something that tarnished the image of USA as being the top intelligence nation with high precision information networks.

In August, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to St. Petersburg to meet his “dear friend” Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin. Their relations had fallen to a low point when the Turks shot down a Russian warplane over northern Syria. Unlike Western leaders, however, Putin had personally called Erdogan to congratulate him on aborting an attempted military coup in July.

Turkey-Russia relations have had ups and downs since the era of Ottoman Empire. A year ago, they were shaking hands, then relations cooled to icy temperatures, but now it seems Russia and Turkey could be on the road to restoring ties. President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have said they want to hold a face-to-face meeting as they agreed to resume cooperation in trade, tourism and the fight against terrorism. Relations took a turn for the worse in November last year when Turkish forces shot down a Russian plane involved in the military campaign in Syria. Ankara said the jet had strayed into its airspace. Erdogan wrote to Putin to reportedly express regret for the incident. The Russian leader said the letter created the conditions necessary to close “this crisis chapter” in bilateral ties. The thawing of relations comes in the same week as a deadly terror attack in Istanbul’s busiest airport, in which more than 40 people were killed.

Russo-Turkish ties have not been upgraded at US cost. Top US officials have not gone to great lengths to hide their dissatisfaction with Turkey’s rekindled friendship with Russia. For many Turks, the irony is that it was the same spokespeople in Washington who urged the Turkish leadership to reach out to the Kremlin – which, Secretary of State John Kerry thought, would play ball. To make matters worse, Washington ignored repeated warnings that steps taken by the US regime would place Turkey’s vital interests at risk. In the end, the Turks turned to other partners to protect their interests. And Russia is a good friend now.

US-Turkey relations have not, however, affected badly as it should because of regular NATO meetings and other secret conclaves. Turkey is the only Muslim nation from Europe in NATO. After roughly nine months of disagreement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to revive their stalled bilateral relationship in their first direct contact on June 29, fueling hopes about restoring economic and trade ties Turkish Chief of Military Staff General Hulusi Akar departed for the USA to attend the meeting of anti-Daesh coalition military chiefs. The meeting is taking place ahead of the crucial operation to liberate Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul from Daesh. According to the statement released by the Turkish General Staff, the last meeting of the coalition military chiefs had taken place six months ago.

What the USA and European allies are worried about, however, isn’t Turkish tomatoes. It’s that improving ties between Ankara and Moscow could translate into closer cooperation on political challenges including the Syrian crisis. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced that she would provide weapons and ammunition to YPG, the PKK’s Syrian franchise, as part of the anti-Daesh campaign. Russia could use Turkey against Europe.

Arrival and success of Russian warplanes in Syria where Americans were calling all shots, was a slap on Washington. The Moscow-Washington agreement of September 10th on Syria, reached after 10 months of hard bargaining and now in shambles after another broken truce, had one crucial if little noted aspect. For the first time since the Soviet Union imploded, Russia managed to put itself on the same diplomatic footing as the USA. Russian strive for equal status from USA, however, is still elusive

The Pentagon soon signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kremlin over safety procedures for their aircraft, now sharing Syrian air space, and established a ground communications link for any problems that should arise. The morale of the Assad regime had improved, it was no longer in danger of being overthrown and its hand was strengthened at any future negotiating table.

Obviously, USA has lost its prestige on world stage even as Moscow is gaining importance in the global eyes.

In August 2015, by all accounts, President Assad was on the ropes and the morale of his dwindling army at rock bottom. Even the backing of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah had proven insufficient to reverse his faltering hold on power. To save his falling regime from collapse, the Kremlin’s military planners decided to fill the gaping hole left by Syria’s collapsing air force, shore up its air defenses, and boost its depleted arsenal of tanks and armored vehicles. The number of Russian military personnel dispatched was estimated at 4,000 to 5,000. Although none of them were ground troops, this was an unprecedented step in recent Russian history. The last time the Kremlin had deployed significant forces outside its territory- in December 1979 in Afghanistan – proved an ill-judged venture, ending a decade later in their withdrawal, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Meeting in Istanbul on October 10, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed a historic agreement to launch the Turkish Stream, a natural gas pipeline that will deliver Russian gas to Europe via Turkey. Just a few months ago, the project was considered dead in the water: Turks had downed a Russian jet over airspace violations and the Kremlin was trying to hurt the tourism industry in Turkey. There was even talk of a violent escalation between Ankara and Moscow.

Turkey and Russia kissed and made up.

The Turkish-Russian rapprochement has been largely limited to energy and economic cooperation. Since Erdoğan’s visit to St. Petersburg, Russian tourists have come back to the Turkish riviera, as import restrictions on Turkish agricultural produce were largely lifted.

The high level of economic relations between Turkey and Russia has become the most important component of our bilateral multidimensional relations. Trade volume between our countries exceeded 25.2 billion Dollars, as of the first 11 month of 2007, making Russia, Turkey’s second trading partner after Germany. Russia is now the main import source for the Turkish economy. Imports from Russia account for about 13% of overall imports. Turkey’s share in Russia’s foreign trade also reached significant levels. As of 2007, Turkey, with a share of about 5%, is Russia’s 4th export country. Russia’s imports from Turkey are also increasing and reached 4,3 billion Dollars in the first 11 month of 2007. N The total value of projects undertaken by Turkish contractors in Russia surpassed 26 billion Dollars, making Russia by far the most important market for Turkish construction services.

As for Turkish direct investments in Russia, they are estimated to have reached 5,6 billion Dollars. At the same time, there is a growing interest by the Russian firms, especially in the telecommunications, energy and tourism sectors, in investment in Turkey. ,Tourism is yet another economic area where our bilateral relations have grown at a very rapid pace. Where in 1999 the number of Russian tourists visiting our country was bellow 500 thousand, this figure reached 2,4 billion in 2007. Turkey has become the most preferred holiday destination for Russians. The number of Turkish tourist visiting Russia is also rapidly growing and reached about 200 thousand.

However, Turkey and Russia view the Syrian issue differently. While the Turks maintain that there can be no lasting peace in Syria unless Assad is removed from power, the Kremlin recently doubled down by joining the regime in bombing Aleppo, where airstrikes have resulted in large casualties. Likewise, the Turkish leadership has major differences of opinion with the Russians also on Crimea and Egypt. Speaking at the World Energy Congress recently, the Turkish President called for an end to indiscriminate attacks on Aleppo – with Putin just 10 feet away. It was a symbolic gesture to make it clear that Turkey was not backtracking on Syria. It remains unlikely Turkey and Russia will reach an agreement over Syria and the future of Bashar Assad anytime soon.

In recent years, US allies around the world – Turkey, Japan and Israel, among others – felt that Washington was no longer a reliable friend. In the Middle East, Obama rewarded “rogue” Iran for breaking every rule in the book, while taking shots at regional allies in front of the cameras. In Asia-Pacific, Obama failed to support Japan against China and last month congress voted for an act that permits families of the victims of 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

Turkey pursued a policy of diversification in the international arena to learn to work with a large number of partners to address pressing problems and pursue its goals. Instead of relying on Washington, the Turks reached the conclusion that the most effective way to address regional challenges was to promote regional cooperation. Keeping in mind that Turkey isn’t alone, the USA will presumably pay the price of Obama’s ambitions and disloyalty by facing growing isolation in the region.

Meanwhile, the Turks made it clear that they have absolutely no intention to waste precious time with Washington. Obama’s isolationist foreign policy, coupled with his mismanagement of the Syrian crisis, alienated the Turkish leadership and forced Turkey to search for alternative partners. The Obama regime repeatedly urged Ankara to kiss and make up with Moscow when the Russians were still playing ball with US Secretary of State John Kerry – who, at the time, refused to accept that he had deteriorated yet again. Turkey’s policy should only serve as a warning sign of how bad the Obama government hurt US interests around the world.

The next US president might enter the Oval Office only to find out that America has no allies left in the Middle East thanks to Barack Obama’s short-sighted policies. The next president must overhaul foreign policy to win back hearts and minds in Turkey and other frustrated allied nations. Unless Washington corrects its course, Ankara’s cooperation with Moscow will only mark the beginning of a dangerous trend for American interests on the ground. The USA needs to correctly identify its national interests in the Middle East and act accordingly if they would like to be taken seriously by regional actors.

Coercive tactics won’t work any longer. USA must wind down all terror wars meant to showcase its military prowess and ensure its energy security. USA and NATO along with their allies like India and Israel have jointly murdered millions of Muslims worldwide.

Enough of bloodbath in Islamic world!

Fascism and imperialism might look fashionable for the anti-Islamic nations but these are definitely harmful for any democracy and humanity as a whole.

There is absolutely nothing that Washington can do now to disturb the tempo of Russo-Turkish relations growing from strength to strength.

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Putin’s post-Soviet world remains a work in progress, but Africa already looms

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Russian civilisationalism is proving handy as President Vladimir Putin seeks to expand the imaginary boundaries of his Russian World, whose frontiers are defined by Russian speakers and adherents to Russian culture rather than international law and/or ethnicity.

Mr. Putin’s disruptive and expansive nationalist ideology has underpinned his aggressive

 approach to Ukraine since 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the stoking of insurgencies in the east of the country. It also underwrites this month’s brief intervention in Kazakhstan, even if it was in contrast to Ukraine at the invitation of the Kazakh government.

Mr. Putin’s nationalist push in territories that were once part of the Soviet Union may be par for the course even if it threatens to rupture relations between Russia and the West and potentially spark a war. It helps Russia compensate for the strategic depth it lost with the demise of communism in Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, equally alarmingly, Mr. Putin appears to be putting building blocks in place that would justify expanding his Russian World in one form or another beyond the boundaries of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

In doing so, he demonstrates the utility of employing plausibly deniable mercenaries not only for military and geopolitical but also ideological purposes.

Standing first in line is the Central African Republic. A resource-rich but failed state that has seen its share of genocidal violence and is situated far from even the most expansive historical borders of the Russian empire, the republic could eventually qualify to be part of the Russian world, according to Mr. Putin’s linguistic and cultural criteria.

Small units of the Wagner Group, a private military company owned by one of Mr. Putin’s close associates, entered the Centra African Republic once departing French troops handed over to a United Nations peacekeeping force in 2016. Five years later, Wagner has rights to mine the country’s gold and diamond deposits.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Russian mercenary presence persuaded President Faustin-Archange Touadera that the African republic should embrace Russian culture.

As a result, university students have been obliged to follow Russian-language classes starting as undergraduates in their first year until their second year of post-graduate studies. The mandate followed the introduction of Russian in the republic’s secondary school curriculum in 2019.

Mr. Touadera is expected to ask Mr. Putin for Russian-language instructors during a forthcoming visit to Moscow to assist in the rollout.

Neighbouring Mali could be next in line to follow in Mr. Touadera’s footsteps.

Last month, units of the Wagner Group moved into the Sahel nation at the request of a government led by army generals who have engineered two coups in nine months. The generals face African and Western sanctions that could make incorporating what bits of the country they control into the Russian world an attractive proposition.

While it is unlikely that Mr. Putin would want to formally welcome sub-Saharan and Sahel states into his Russian world, it illustrates the pitfalls of a redefinition of internationally recognised borders as civilisational and fluid rather than national, fixed, and legally enshrined.

For now, African states do not fit Mr. Putin’s bill of one nation as applied to Ukraine or Belarus. However, using linguistics as a monkey wrench, he could, overtime or whenever convenient, claim them as part of the Russian world based on an acquired language and cultural affinity.

Mr. Putin’s definition of a Russian world further opens the door to a world in which the principle of might is right runs even more rampant with the removal of whatever flimsy guard rails existed.

To accommodate the notion of a Russian world, Russian leaders, going back more than a decade, have redefined Russian civilisation as multi-ethnic rather than ethically Russia.

The Central African Republic’s stress on Russian-language education constitutes the first indication in more than a decade that Mr. Putin and some of his foreign allies may expand the Russian world’s civilisational aspects beyond the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Some critics of Mr. Putin’s concept of a Russian world note that Western wars allegedly waged out of self-defense and concern for human rights were also about power and geopolitical advantage.

For example, pundit Peter Beinart notes that NATO-led wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya “also extended American power and smashed Russian allies at the point of a gun.”

The criticism doesn’t weaken the legitimacy of the US and Western rejection of Russian civilisationalism. However, it does undermine the United States’ ability to claim the moral high ground.

It further constrains Western efforts to prevent the emergence of a world in which violation rather than the inviolability of national borders become the accepted norm.

If Russian interventionism aims to change borders, US interventionism often sought to change regimes. That is one driver of vastly different perceptions of the US role in the world, including Russian distrust of the post-Soviet NATO drive into Eastern Europe and independent former Soviet states such as Ukraine.

“People with more experience of the dark side of American power—people whose families hail from Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Haiti, or Mexico, where US guns have sabotaged democracy rather than defended it—might find it easier to understand Russian suspicions. But those Americans tend not to shape US policy towards places like Ukraine,” Mr. Beinart said.

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Neighbours and Crises: New Challenges for Russia

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Through all the discussions that accompanied the preparation of the Valdai Club report “Space Without Borders: Russia and Its Neighbours”, the most clear question was whether Russia should or should not avoid repeating the historical experience of relations with its near abroad. This experience, in the most general terms, is that after Russia pacifies its western border with its foreign policy, the Russian state inevitably must turn to issues related to the existence of its immediate neighbourhood. With a high degree of probability, it will be forced to turn to its centuries-old method for solving problems that arise there: expansion for the sake of ensuring security.

Now Russia’s near abroad consists of a community of independent states that cannot ensure their own security and survival by relying only on their own forces; we cannot be completely sure of their stability. From Estonia in the west to Kyrgyzstan in the east, the existence of these countries in a competitive international environment is ensured by their link with one of the nuclear superpowers. Moreover, such connections can only complement each other with great difficulty. As the recent developments in Kazakhstan have demonstrated, they are not limited to the threat of an external invasion; even internal circumstances can become deadly.

The dramatic events in that country were intensified by external interference from the geostrategic opponents of Russia, as well as international terrorists, but it would be disingenuous to argue that their most important causes are not exclusively internal and man-made. We cannot and should not judge whether the internal arrangements of our neighbours are good or bad, since we ourselves do not have ideal recipes or examples. However, when dealing with the consequences, it is rational to fear that their statehood will either be unable to survive, or that their existence will take place in forms that create dangers which Russia cannot ignore.

In turn, the events experienced now in relations between Russia and the West, if we resort to historical analogies, look like a redux of the Northern War. The Great Northern War arose at the beginning of the 18th century as the result of the restoration of Russia’s power capabilities; the West had made great progress in approaching the heart of its territory. Within the framework of this logic, victory, even tactical victory, in the most important (Western) direction will inevitably force Russia to turn to its borders. Moreover, the reasons for paying more attention to them are obvious. This will present Russia with the need to decide on how much it is willing to participate in the development of its neighbours.

The developments in Kazakhstan in early January 2022 showed the objective limits of the possibilities of building a European-style sovereign state amid new, historical, and completely different geopolitical circumstances. More or less all the countries of the space that surrounds Russia, from the Baltic to the Pamir, are unique experiments that arose amid the truly phenomenal orderliness of conditions after the end of the Cold War. In that historical era, the world really developed under conditions where a general confidence prevailed that the absolute dominance of one power and a group of its allies creates conditions for the survival of small and medium-sized states, even in the absence of objective reasons for this.

The idea of the “end of history” was so convincing that we could accept it as a structural factor, so powerful that it would allow us to overcome even the most severe objective circumstances.

The Cold War era created the experience of the emergence and development of new countries, which until quite recently had been European colonies. Despite the fact that there are a few “success stories” among the countries that emerged after 1945, few have been able to get out of the catch-up development paradigm. However, it was precisely 30 years ago that there really was a possibility that a unipolar world would be so stable that it would allow the experiment to come to fruition. The visible recipes of the new states being built were ideal from an abstract point of view, just as Victor Frankenstein was guided by a desire for the ideal.

Let us recall that the main idea of our report was that Russia needs to preserve the independence of the states surrounding it and direct all its efforts to ensure that they become effective powers, eager to survive. This desire for survival is seen as the main condition for rational behaviour, i.e. creating a foreign policy, which takes into account the geopolitical conditions and the power composition of Eurasia. In other words, we believe that Russia is interested in the experiment that emerged within the framework of the Liberal World Order taking place under new conditions, since its own development goals dictate that it avoid repeating its past experience of full control over its neighbours, with which it shares a single geopolitical space.

This idea, let’s not hide it, prompted quite convincing criticism, based on the belief that the modern world does not create conditions for the emergence of states where such an experience is absent in more or less convincing forms. For Russia, the challenge is that even if it is technically capable of ensuring the immediate security of its national territory, the spread of the “grey zone” around its borders will inevitably bring problems that the neighbours themselves are not able to solve.

The striking analogy proposed by one colleague was the “hallway of hell” that Russia may soon face on its southern borders, making us raise the question that the absence of topographic boundaries within this space makes it necessary to create artificial political or even civilisational lines, the protection of which in any case will be entrusted to the Russian soldier. This January we had the opportunity to look into this “hallway of hell”. There is no certainty that the instant collapse of a state close to Russia in the darkest periods of its political history should be viewed as a failure in development, rather than a systemic breakdown of the entire trajectory, inevitable because it took shape amid completely different conditions.

Therefore, now Russia should not try to understand what its further strategy might be; in any case, particular behaviour will be determined by circumstances. Our task is to explore the surrounding space in order to understand where Russia can stop if it does not want to resort to the historical paradigm of its behaviour. The developments in Kazakhstan, in their modern form, do not create any grounds for optimism or hopes for a return to an inertial path of development. Other states may follow Ukraine and Kazakhstan even if they now look quite confident. There are no guarantees — and it would be too great a luxury for Russia to accept such a fate.

This is primarily because the Russian state will inevitably face a choice between being ready for several decades of interaction with a huge “grey zone” along the perimeter of its borders and more energetic efforts to prevent its emergence. It is unlikely that Moscow would simply observe the processes taking place on its immediate periphery. This is not a hypothetical invasion of third forces — that does not pose any significant threat to Russia. The real challenge may be that in a few decades, or sooner, Moscow will have to take on an even greater responsibility, which Russia got rid of in 1991. Even now, there seems to be a reason to believe that thirty years of independence have made it possible to create elements of statehood that can be preserved and developed with the help of Russia.

from our partner RIAC

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Do as You’re Told, Russia Tells the Neighborhood

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The Kremlin has always argued that it has special interests and ties to what once constituted the Soviet space. Yet it struggled to produce a smooth mechanism for dealing with the neighborhood, where revolutionary movements toppled Soviet and post-Soviet era political elites. Popular movements in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and most recently Kazakhstan have flowered and sometimes triumphed despite the Kremlin’s rage.

Russia’s responses have differed in each case, although it has tended to foster separatism in neighboring states to preclude their westward aspirations. As a policy, this was extreme and rarely generated support for its actions, even from allies and partners. The resultant tensions underlined the lack of legitimacy and generated acute fear even in friendlier states that Russia one day could turn against them.

But with the activation of the hitherto largely moribund six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Kazakhstan seems to be an entirely different matter. Here, for the first time since its Warsaw Pact invasions, Russia employed an element of multilateralism. This was designed to show that the intervention was an allied effort, though it was Russia that pulled the strings and contributed most of the military force.

CSTO activation is also about something else. It blurred the boundaries between Russia’s security and the security of neighboring states. President Vladimir Putin recently stated the situation in Kazakhstan concerned “us all,” thereby ditching the much-cherished “Westphalian principles” of non-intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring states. The decision was also warmly welcomed by China, another Westphalia enthusiast.

In many ways, Russia always wanted to imitate the US, which in its unipolar moment used military power to topple regimes (in Afghanistan and Iraq) and to restore sovereignty (in Kuwait.) Liberal internationalism with an emphasis on human rights allowed America and its allies to operate with a certain level of legitimacy and to assert (a not always accepted) moral imperative. Russia had no broader ideas to cite. Until now. Upholding security and supporting conservative regimes has now become an official foreign policy tool. Protests in Belarus and Kazakhstan helped the Kremlin streamline this vision.

Since Russia considers its neighbors unstable (something it often helps to bring about), the need for intervention when security is threatened will now serve as a new dogma, though this does not necessarily mean that CSTO will now exclusively serve as the spearhead of Russian interventionist policy in crises along its borders. On the contrary, Russia will try to retain maneuverability and versatility. The CSTO option will be one weapon in the Kremlin’s neighborhood pacification armory.

Another critical element is the notion of “limited sovereignty,” whereby Russia allows its neighbors to exercise only limited freedom in foreign policy. This is a logical corollary, since maneuverability in their relations with other countries might lead to what the Kremlin considers incorrect choices, like joining Western military or economic groupings.

More importantly, the events in Kazakhstan also showed that Russia is now officially intent on upholding the conservative-authoritarian regimes. This fits into a broader phenomenon of authoritarians helping other authoritarians. Russia is essentially exporting its own model abroad. The export includes essential military and economic help to shore up faltering regimes.

The result is a virtuous circle, in the Kremlin’s eyes. Not only can it crush less than friendly governments in its borderlands but it also wins extensive influence, including strategic and economic benefits. Take for instance Belarus, where with Russian help, the dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka managed to maintain his position after 2020’s elections through brutality and vote-rigging. The end result is that the regime is ever-more beholden to Russia, abandoning remnants of its multi-vector foreign policy and being forced to make financial and economic concessions of defense and economics to its new master. Russia is pressing hard for a major new airbase.

A similar scenario is now opening up in Kazakhstan. The country which famously managed to strike a balance between Russia and China and even work with the US, while luring multiple foreign investors, will now have to accept a new relationship with Russia. It will be similar to Belarus, short of integration talks.

Russia fears crises, but it has also learned to exploit them. Its new approach is a very striking evolution from the manner in which it handled Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014, through the Belarus and Armenia-Azerbaijan crises in 2020 to the Kazakh uprising of 2022.

Russia has a new vision for its neighborhood. It is in essence a concept of hierarchical order with Russia at the top of the pyramid. The neighbors have to abide by the rules. Failure to do so would produce a concerted military response.

Author’s note: first published in cepa

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