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
Test of Agni Prime Missile and India’s Counterforce Temptations
South Asia is widely regarded as one of the most hostile regions of the world primarily because of the troubled relations between the two nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan. The complex security dynamics have compelled both the countries to maintain nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis each other. India is pursuing an extensive and all-encompassing military modernization at the strategic and operational level. In this regard, India has been involved in the development of advanced missiles as delivery systems and improvement in the existing delivery systems as well. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are solely aimed at India; however, India aspires to fight a ‘two-front war’ against Pakistan and China. Therefore, the size and capability of its nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are aimed at countering both threats. However, most of the recent missile delivery systems made by India appear to be more Pakistan-centric. One recent example in this regard is the recently tested nuclear-capable cannisterized ballistic missile Agni Prime, which is insinuated as Pakistan-centric. These developments would likely further provoke an action-reaction spiral and would increase the pace of conflict in South Asia, which ultimately could result in the intensification of the missile arms race.
Just quite recently, on 28th June 2021, India has successfully tested an advanced variant of its Agni missile series, namely Agni Prime or Agni (P). The missile has a range between 1000-2000 kilometers. Agni Prime is a new missile in the Agni missiles series, with improved accuracy and less weight than Agni 1, 2, and 3 missiles. It has been said that the Agni-P weighs 50 % less than the Agni-3 missile. As per the various media reports, this missile would take the place of Agni 1 and 2 and Prithvi missiles, however officially no such information is available. This new missile and whole Agni series is developed as part of the missile modernization program under the Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) integrated guided missile development program.
Agni-P is a short missile with less weight and ballistic trajectory, the missile has a rocket-propelled, self-guided strategic weapons system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Moreover, the missile is cannisterized with the ability to be launched from road and rail. The DRDO claimed that the test flight of the missile was monitored by the telemetry radar stations and its trajectory met all the objectives of the mission successfully with high level of accuracy. Agni-P missile because of its range of 1000 to 2000 km is considered a weapon against Pakistan because within this range it cannot target China. Although, India already has different missiles in its inventory with the same range as the newly developed and tested Agni-P missile, so the question arises what this missile would achieve.
Since the last few years, it has been deliberated within the international security discourse that India’s force posture is actually more geared towards counterforce options rather than counter-value options. Although, India’s nuclear doctrine after its operationalization in 2003, claims “massive retaliation” and “nfu” but in reality with developing cannisterized weapons like Agni-P, Agni 5, and testing of hypersonic demonstrative vehicles, India actually is building its capability of “counterforce targeting” or “splendid first strike”. This reflects that India’s nuclear doctrine is just a façade and has no real implication on India’s force modernization.
These developments by India where it is rapidly developing offensive technologies put the regional deterrence equation under stress by increasing ambiguity. In a region like South Asia, where both nuclear rivals are neighbors and distance between both capitals are few thousand kilometers and missile launch from one side would take only a few minutes in reaching its target, ambiguity would increase the fog of war and put other actors, in this case, Pakistan in “use it or lose it” situation, as its nuclear deterrent would be under threat.
In such a situation, where Pakistan maintains that nuclear weapons are its weapons of last resort and to counter threats emerging from India, its nuclear deterrence has to hold the burden of covering all spectrums of threat. It might be left with no choice but to go for the development of a new kind of missile delivery system, probably the cannisterized missile systems as an appropriate response option. However, as Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is based on principle of “CMD” which allow Pakistan to seek deterrence in a cost-effective manner and also by not indulging in an arms race. Therefore, other than the threat of action-reaction dynamic developments like Agni P by India, would make weapons more accurate and lethal, subsequently conflict would be faster, ambiguous, and with less time to think. In such a scenario, as chances of miscalculation increase, the escalation dynamics would become more complex; thus, further undermining the deterrence stability in South Asia.
India’s counter-force temptations and development of offensive weapons are affecting the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia. The deterrence equation is not getting affected just because India is going ahead with the development of offensive technologies but because of its continuous attempts of negating the presence of mutual vulnerability between both countries. Acknowledgement of existence of mutual vulnerability would strengthen the deterrence equation in the region and help both countries to move forward from the action-reaction spiral and arms race. The notions such as the development of offensive or counterforce technology or exploiting the levels below the nuclear threshold to fight a war would not be fruitful in presence of nuclear weapons. As nuclear weapons are weapons to avert the war and not to fight the war.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems & The Annihilistic Future
The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones were introduced as a useful means to military, commercial, civilian and humanitarian activities but yet it ends up in news for none of its original purposes. Drones have rather resulted as a means of mass destruction.
The recent attacks on the technical area of the Jammu Air Force Station highlights the same. This was a first-of-its-kind terror attack on IAF station rather the Indian defence forces that shook the National Investigation Agency to National Security Guard. The initial probe into the attacks directs to involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based out of Pakistan, in the drone attacks as the aerial distance from the point of attack was just 14 kilometers. The attacks took place via an Electric multi-rotor type drone between 11:30 P.M to 1:30 A.M on 27th June, 2021.
The above incident clearly points out the security issues that lie ahead of India in face to the asymmetrical warfare as a result of drones. The Indian Government after looking at the misuse of drones during the first wave of the pandemic realised that its drone regulations were nowhere sufficient and accountable and hence passed the Unmmaned Aircraft Rules, 2021. These rules imposed stricter requirement for obtaining license and authorisations by remote pilots, operators, manufacturers or importers, training organisations and R&D organisations, thereby placing a significantly high burden on the applicants but at the same time they also permit UAS operations beyond visual sight of line and allowing student remote pilots to operate UAS.
But these rules still don’t have any control on the deadly use of drones because multi-rotor drones are very cheap and readily available and what makes them lethal is their ability to be easily detected, additionally the night time makes it even worse. Their small size grants them weak radar, thermal, and aural signatures, albeit varying based on the materials used in their construction.
The pertinent issue to be understood here is that these rules can never ensure safety and security as they cannot control the purpose for which these drones maybe used. There are certain factors that are to be accounted to actually be receptive to such imminent and dangerous threats. Firstly, significantly increasing urban encroachments in areas around defence establishments, particularly air bases, has proved to be fatal. If frontline bases like Jammu or be it any other base when surrounded by unbuffered civilization poses two pronged problems, first it acts as high chances of being a vantage point for possible attackers and second, it also hampering the defence mechanism to come to an action. It is not limited to drone concerns but there have been cases of increased bird activity that has once resulted in engine failure of an IAF Jaguar and has caused similar problems all along.
Another important factor is that of intelligence. The Anti-drone systems will take their time to be in place and it is still a distant call to ascertain how effective will these systems be, so in the time being it is pertinent to focus on intelligence which may include sales and transfers of commercial drone, or the hardware that is required to build a basic multi-rotor drone. These are not something extraordinary because it is even in news when Pakistani drones were being used to supply weapons and ammunition to terror networks on Indian soil. Also, the past experience in handling ISIS have shown the weightage of intelligence over defensive nets.
Intelligence is no doubt a crucial factor in anticipation of drone attacks but what cannot be done away with is the defense mechanism. Efficient counter-drone technology is the need of the hour. DRDO has developed such technology that could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. It is claimed that solution consists of a radar system that offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro drones when they are 4km away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection of micro drones up to 2 km and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 km and is equipped for both soft kills as well as hard kills.
Hence, the above analysis brings out the need of the application of an international instrument because the technology used in such drone attacks is at an evolving stage and the natural barriers still have an upper hand over be it either flying a pre-programmed path aided by satellite navigation and inertial measurement units (IMUs), or hand controlled to the point of release or impact, both methods have significant limitations as satellite and IMU navigation is prone to errors even when it comes to moderate flight ranges while manual control is subject to the human limitations such as line of sight, visibility as well as technical limitations such as distance estimation of the target, and weak radio links. An example of this could be the Turkish-made Kargu-2 model of killer drone can allegedly autonomously track and kill specific targets on the basis of facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the AI becomes better and better, these drone attacks become more and more terminal.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic is an eye opener for India as well as the world as none of the countries considered the possibility of bio-defenses or made a heavy investment in it even when there was awareness about lethal effects of genetic engineering. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to invest heavily in research and make the development of defensive technologies a national priority else the result of artificially intelligent killer drones would be much more catastrophic.
Russia’s National Security Strategy: A Manifesto for a New Era
The central feature of the new strategy is its focus on Russia itself. The Russian leadership has every reason right now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.
Russia’s new, forty-four-page National Security Strategy signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 2 is a remarkable document. It is much more than an update of the previous paper, adopted in 2015. Back then, relations with the West had already sharply deteriorated as a result of the Ukraine crisis, but were still considered salvageable; much of the liberal phraseology inherited from the 1990s was still in use; and the world still looked more or less unified. The current version of arguably the most important Kremlin strategy statement—covering not only national security issues, but a whole range of others, from the economy to the environment, and values to defense—is a manifesto for a different era: one defined by the increasingly intense confrontation with the United States and its allies; a return to traditional Russian values; and the critical importance for Russia’s future of such issues as technology and climate.
The strategy lays out a view of a world undergoing transformation and turmoil. The hegemony of the West, it concludes, is on the way out, but that is leading to more conflicts, and more serious ones at that. This combination of historical optimism (the imminent end of Western hegemony) and deep concern (as it is losing, the West will fight back with even more ferocity) is vaguely reminiscent of Stalin’s famous dictum of the sharpening of the class struggle along the road to socialism. Economically, Russia faces unfair competition in the form of various restrictions designed to damage it and hold it back; in terms of security, the use of force is a growing threat; in the realm of ethics, Russia’s traditional values and historical legacy are under attack; in domestic politics, Russia has to deal with foreign machinations aimed at provoking long-term instability in the country. This external environment fraught with mounting threats and insecurities is regarded as an epoch, rather than an episode.
Against this sobering background, the central feature of the strategy is its focus on Russia itself: its demographics, its political stability and sovereignty, national accord and harmony, economic development on the basis of new technologies, protection of the environment and adaptation to climate change, and—last but not least—the nation’s spiritual and moral climate. This inward focus is informed by history. Exactly thirty years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed just as its military power was at its peak, and not as a result of a foreign invasion. Having recently regained the country’s great power status and successfully reformed and rearmed its military, the Russian leadership has every reason now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.
The paper outlines a lengthy series of measures for dealing with a host of domestic issues, from rising poverty and continued critical dependence on imported technology to the advent of green energy and the loss of the Soviet-era technological and educational edge. This certainly makes sense. Indeed, the recent Kremlin discovery of climate change as a top-tier issue is a hopeful sign that Russia is overcoming its former denial of the problem, along with inordinately exuberant expectations of the promise of global warming for a predominantly cold country. After all, the Kremlin’s earlier embrace of digitalization has given a major push to the spread of digital services across Russia.
The strategy does not ignore the moral and ethical aspects of national security. It provides a list of traditional Russian values and discusses them at length. It sees these values as being under attack through Westernization, which threatens to rob the Russians of their cultural sovereignty, and through attempts to vilify Russia by rewriting history. In sum, the paper marks an important milestone in Russia’s official abandonment of the liberal phraseology of the 1990s and its replacement with a moral code rooted in the country’s own traditions. Yet here, the strategy misses a key point at the root of Russia’s many economic and social problems: the widespread absence of any values, other than purely materialistic ones, among much of the country’s ruling elite. The paper mentions in passing the need to root out corruption, but the real issue is bigger by an order of magnitude. As each of President Putin’s annual phone-in sessions with the Russian people demonstrates—including the most recent one on June 30—Russia is governed by a class of people who are, for the most part, self-serving, and do not care at all for ordinary people or the country, instead focusing single-mindedly on making themselves rich on the job. Money—or rather Big Money—has become that group’s top value, and the most corrosive element in today’s Russia. Therein lies perhaps the biggest vulnerability of modern Russia.
On foreign policy, the strategy is fairly elliptic, but it gives a hint of what the upcoming Foreign Policy Concept might include. The United States and some of its NATO allies are now officially branded unfriendly states. Relations with the West are de-prioritized and those countries ranked last in terms of closeness, behind former Soviet countries; the strategic partners China and India; non-Western institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and the Russia-India-China trio; and other Asian, Latin American, and African countries. In addition to U.S. military deployments and its system of alliances, U.S.-based internet giants with their virtual monopoly in the information sphere, and the U.S. dollar that dominates global finances are also seen as instruments of containing Russia.
Overall, the 2021 Russian National Security Strategy seeks to adapt the country to a still interconnected world of fragmentation and sharpening divisions, in which the main battle lines are drawn not only—and not even mostly—between countries, but within them. Victories will be won and defeats suffered largely on domestic turf. Accordingly, it is the Home Front that presents the greatest challenges, and it is there that the main thrust of government policies must be directed.
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