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Turkey and conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh

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The position of Turkey, which has sided with one of the warring parties in Nagorno-Karabakh, is starkly at variance with many countries’ and international organizations’ calls to end hostilities. Moreover, it was more than just diplomatic support that Ankara offered Baku, with media and later politicians of a number of countries talking about Syrian and Libyan mercenaries being moved to the conflict zone to join the Azeri forces. The Guardian even claimed that in mid-September, Turkish instructors were already at work in Syria’s Afrin training loyal militants before sending them to Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara dismissed these accounts as fakes and, in its turn, reports about foreigners, even Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants, allegedly fighting on the Armenian side.

Meanwhile, Ankara’s official rhetoric demonstrates its wholehearted support for Baku.

“As Turkey, we will continue to support our Azerbaijani brothers with all means with all our hearts in line with the principle of ‘two states, one nation,'” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told lawmakers in Ankara, adding that permanent peace could only be achieved in the region “if Armenia withdraws from occupied Azerbaijani territories.”

President Erdogan’s position is readily echoed by the country’s political establishment, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying that “Turkey stands with Azerbaijan both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”  Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy pledged all assistance “Azerbaijan asks for.”

While the public opinion in Turkey is generally on Baku’s side, there are alternative points of view also being expressed. For example, the newspaper Evrensel wrote that “the first of the regional players who are eager for intervention in the spirit of their expansionist ambitions … is the Erdogan administration.” However, these voices are drowned out in the avalanche of alarmist calls.

In the multi-vector, or rather poly-paradigmatic Turkish politics, ideas of neo-Ottomanism, Islamism, or “Turkic solidarity” come to the fore depending on the international situation, just like it was in the early-1990s and is happening today. Presently, this is obviously due to setbacks on other “fronts,” including the economy.

In northern Syria, already three military operations have apparently not been enough for Ankara to create a continuous “security corridor” along the entire border, primarily along Turkey’s southeastern provinces, where US-backed Kurdish militants are most active on the neighboring territories of Iraq and Syria. In addition, Moscow and Damascus made it clear to Ankara that the Islamist enclave of Idlib, which is the Turkish zone of responsibility, is a temporary entity.

In Libya, the warring sides called a ceasefire on August 21, followed by a series of negotiations. According to the newspaper Evrensel, the fact that Ankara has taken so long reacting to this development, although it previously stated that its allied Government of National Accord (GNA) would agree to a truce only after it had taken the cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra, indicates that the agreements between Tripoli and Tobruk were reached behind Turkey’s back. At the same time, the Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar flatly refuses to communicate with what he describes as “Turkish invaders.” Shortly afterwards, GNA Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, the Libyan politician most loyal to Turkey, announced his decision to resign.

Meanwhile, the process of Arab-Israeli reconciliation, which is gradually gaining momentum, means that the Arabian monarchies are now less concerned about their confrontation with the Jewish state than they are about Turkey’s and Iran’s foreign political activity in the region. The Arab League, where Saudi Arabia and its allies play the leading roles, has refused to condemn Bahrain and the UAE for their decision to mend fences with Israel.

Tensions in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean are easing too now. In January 2019, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority launched the East Mediterranean Gas Forum to enable member nations to co-ordinate the development of natural gas resources in the Mediterranean basin and facilitate the delivery of gas to regional users and export markets. Turkey, which was not invited, said it would not recognize the above countries’ zones of economic interests and dispatched exploration vessels, escorted by warships, to the coast of Cyprus.

Coupled with Ankara’s policy in Libya, this move ratcheted up tensions with a number of EU countries, above all with Cyprus, Greece and France, and gave the EU foreign and security policy chief Josep Borrell and French President Emmanuel Macron a reason to accuse the Turkish leadership of imperial ambitions.

Admonitions by NATO, threats of sanctions from Europe and, finally, a demonstrative visit to Greece and Cyprus by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo eventually resulted in Recep Tayyip Erdogan sending a letter to the EU leaders where he said that “Turkey is ready for dialogue with Greece without preconditions.” On October 1, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that the Turkish and Greek militaries had reached an understanding on the “general principles” of relations and created a “hot line” to resolve the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish exploration vessels returned to their ports.

All this is apparently forcing Turkey to re-focus its efforts on the “Turkic” track, which, since 1991, has already enjoyed a great deal of attention from official Ankara. I believe that the British Arabic-language newspaper Rai Al Youm hit the nail on the head when it wrote that “despite their inherent pragmatism, the Turkish authorities refuse to recognize the obvious, namely that the United States of America, Europe and all other NATO members will not allow them to revive the Ottoman Empire, no matter what it takes.”

Turkey has consistently been strengthening across-the-board cooperation with Azerbaijan and Central Asian countries – from cultural to military-technical – as well as with related communities in other countries, especially in Afghanistan. Taking a cue from Tehran, which “takes care” of Afghan Shia-Hazaras, Ankara decided to patronize the Turks. Back in 2006, it won the right to form the Wardak Provincial Reconstruction Team, and four years later – the Jowzjan and Sar-e Pol provinces. Turkish diplomats maintain close ties with the influential and ambitious Rashid Dostum, who primarily enjoys the support of the country’s Uzbek and Turkmen communities.

With that being said, the Organization of the Eurasian Law Enforcement Agencies with Military Status, established to promote interaction between law enforcement agencies with the military status of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, has existed for several years now, albeit in a “sleep” mode. The Turkish military expert Kaan Saryaydin recently said that on October 29 (at the Turkic Council’s next summit? – A. I.), they will announce the creation of a united army of the Turkic countries.

If so, then Ankara is bound to play the first fiddle in this project.

Presently, Azerbaijan is the country with which Ankara has developed the closest and pragmatic relations that it even describes as “two states – one nation,” although Baku’s official ideology is still based on the principle of national sovereignty. However, drawing a line between official Turkish nationalism proper and what is commonly called Pan-Turkism is pretty hard.  This was also facilitated by modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who once insisted on the adoption of the word Türk as an ethnonym for the country’s residents. The same word is also used to designate representatives of all Turkic peoples.

This means that it may not be long before Ankara tries to expand the first part of the abovementioned formula.

Getting back to Nagorno-Karabakh, the painstaking efforts by Russian diplomats are obviously bearing fruit because Ankara is now sending out veiled signals that it may be ready for a compromise. During a telephone linkup, the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers “spoke in favor of an immediate cessation of hostilities” and reaffirmed their “readiness for close coordination of the actions of Russia and Turkey to stabilize the situation with the aim of returning the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to the channel of peaceful talks.”

So, despite the sometimes hard-to-comprehend political twists and turns that have recently become a “calling card” of Ankara’s foreign policy, Turkey still remains a sane and negotiable country.

From our partner International Affairs

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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