Amerikalı uzman:-Rusya'nın YPG politikası kesinlikle değişti.
Ankara-Moscow -The Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian visited Qatar during the past week and met with its Minister of Foreign Affairs. Some people say that this visit was done with Russia’s tacit approval. The following week, Qatar’s Defense Minister al-Attia visited Ankara and met with Fikri Işık, and on Sunday Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited President Erdogan in Ankara. Following these developments, the Qatari Defense Minister stated that the Gulf States had declared a bloodless war on Doha and that the people of Qatar were ready to defend their land. What can we understand by this series of developments?
Andrew Korybko :- There does appear to be a certain degree of behind-the-scenes diplomacy between Russia, Turkey, and Qatar, with Armenia functioning in this sense as a Russian surrogate of sorts regarding its Foreign Minister’s visit to Qatar recently. Russia and Turkey have been engaged in a game-changing rapprochement all across the past 12 months, accelerated as it was by the failed pro-American coup attempt against President Erdogan last year and the two sides’ close coordination over the War on Syria. In addition, the Turkish Stream project serves as the cement holding both sides together in a win-win relationship, a detail which is usually overlooked by most analysts. Accepting the intimate nature of Russian-Turkish ties nowadays, it makes sense why Moscow is also engaging Doha in a positive way in the context of the Gulf Crisis/Gulf Cold War.
It would be wrong, however, to imply that Russia is overtly partisan on Qatar’s behalf, as Moscow has very serious interests that it needs to protect with Riyadh such as the OPEC deal, Syrian peace talks, and future arms contracts, so it won’t ever come out too openly in favor of Doha despite its subtle moves of support for the embattled country. The word "embattled” is used deliberately because the de-facto blockade has certainly inflicted a degree of damage on the Qatari economy and instilled fear in the country that it might come under harsher sanctions or perhaps even indirect proxy/terrorist action in the future as punishment for its independence and failure to submit to the Saudi King. The Qataris will indeed protect their country, but not in the manner that’s being suggested by the Defense Minister. Their military is far too small to offer up much of a conventional defense, and plus there’s little chance that the GCC will attack a country hosting the US’ CENTCOM headquarters anyhow.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the majority of people living in Qatar aren’t even "natives”, but are immigrants, mostly from South Asia. That in and of itself presents a "behind-the-lines” Hybrid War threat if militantly instrumentalized by Qatar’s foes, though for the time being there doesn’t appear to be much to worry about in this regard. To the contrary, it’s the UAE which fears – whether rightly or wrongly – that Qatar might weaponize the majority-immigrant population of the Emirates, which is why it banned Al Jazeera as a preemptive step. It can thus be seen that both sides are using asymmetrical means of "defense” to protect themselves, whether it’s Qatar skillfully leveraging economic-diplomatic resources or the UAE enacting paranoid decrees in its information realm, understanding that the majority of their populations aren’t even "natives” and thus won’t put their lives on the line to protect either of these two states.
To get back to the final question at hand, the series of developments outlined in the question prove that there is indeed policy coordination between Russia, Turkey, and Qatar, but that the strongest axis of partnership is between Ankara and Doha, with Moscow having the diplomatic-strategic flexibility to "mediate” between that bloc and the Saudi-led one given its dual energy-diplomatic interests in both camps. This is definitely an asset for both sides since Russia is a neutral and trusted third-party actor with no ulterior interests in the Gulf Crisis/Gulf Cold War, so it’s in a better position to independently mediate than the US or any other force for that matter, despite not having the hard assets/interests on the ground like Washington does. This doesn’t mean that anyone should hold their breath for Russia to be the key indispensable player in resolving this crisis, but just that if – and that’s a key conditional – if the political will exists on both sides to peacefully end it, then Russia could help facilitate a solution, though it’s doubtful that this exists on the Saudi side or ever will anytime soon.
- Can Russia actually provide military support to Qatar?
It’s extremely unlikely that Russia will provide any military support to Qatar, as this would betray its image of neutrality and counteract its efforts to behave as a balancing force in this crisis. What observers need to recognize is that Russia envisions its 21st-century geostrategic role as being the supreme balancing force in the Eurasian supercontinent, and it can’t fulfill what it believes to be its destined responsibility if it’s overtly partisan in supporting one side or the other. Granted, this is a recent policy which is undergoing regular refinement and isn’t perfectly executed as of yet, but considering the outreaches that Russia has made to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and just as importantly, the UAE since the Gulf Crisis/Gulf Cold War began, it’s plain to see that Moscow is making efforts to "balance” between all sides and give off the impression of neutrality.
That being said, it’s possible sometime down the line for Russia to employ its "military diplomacy” in helping to maintain the balance between both sides. What’s meant by this is that Russia regularly sells weapons to opposing sides in several regional conflicts, be it Armenia & Azerbaijan, India & China, or China & Vietnam, and the possibility certainly exists in the future for it to expand this model to Pakistan & India, Iran & Saudi Arabia, and Qatar & Saudi Arabia, just as it’s presently pursuing such a path in regards to Turkey & Syria. The difference between Russia doing this and the US is that Moscow seeks to preserve the regional balance of forces in order to prevent one side or another from becoming strong enough that they can launch a war of aggression, whereas Washington regularly seeks the opposite in trying to disrupt the balance of power so that its proxy can geopolitically reengineer the region on its behalf.
As this relates to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, one shouldn’t forget that Moscow is currently negotiating the sale of tanks and jets to Riyadh, although no newsworthy progress has been made on this thus far. In the event that any potential deal goes through, however, then it would follow that Russia could more comfortably sell other weapons systems to Qatar as part of its "military diplomacy” in trying to balance regional rivals and preserve the balance of peace (however tense) between them. This would also deepen Russia’s envisioned 21st-century role in being the supreme balancing force in the Eurasian supercontinent, with the added ‘prestige’ of doing this in the Gulf region which had previously been the exclusive strategic domain of the US. In any case, this isn’t something that is expected to occur on the near horizon and will take time to implement if at all.
- Over the weekend, reports came in that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu asked the Russian Aerospace Forces to arrange military exercises near Afrin and not allow American aircraft into the area. We know that the Turkish Army is in the process of preparing operations against the YPG in the region, so what do you expect that the American leadership will do in response to this?
-Russia’s approach to Turkey’s conventional military involvement in the War on Syria has been passive since the two sides began their historic rapprochement last year, as Moscow is in a bit of a diplomatic bind in terms of what it can overtly do and say. On the one hand, it appears as though Russia supports Turkey’s anti-terrorist moves in northern Syria, especially as they related to Daesh in the context of "Operation Euphrates Shield”, but it had expressed certain reservations about Ankara’s attacks on the YPG Kurds. This is because Russia was still under the impression that the group could be "flipped” from the US and become a constructive actor in resolving the Syrian conflict, implicitly understanding that this could be useful in "keep Turkey in check” so long as the Kurds didn’t get out of control. This strategy was short-sighted because it didn’t take into account just how strong American influence is on the YPG Kurds, and it was also a wishful Soviet-era fantasy which imagined that Russian-Kurdish relations were still on as excellent terms as they were during the Old Cold War.
In many cases, the Russian approach to the YPG Kurds reminds one of naiveté inherent in Russian-Indian relations up until recently whereby Moscow truly believed in the slogan of "Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai”, or "Russians and Indians are brothers”. Just as India decisively "switched sides” to the US in the strategic sense but still retains some elements of high-level and positive relations with Russia, so too did the Kurds do something similar as well, except they’re a numerically smaller player though with a disproportionately larger strategic significance as regards the geopolitical future of the Mideast. The point being expressed here is that some of Russia’s closest Cold War-era relationships have fundamentally changed, even if Russian decision makers were slow to realize it because they were still caught up with the romantic ideas from that time period, which explains Russia’s friendly position towards the Syrian Kurds over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, just as Russia has now entered into a major rapprochement with Pakistan in reaction to India’s unprecedented military-strategic partnership with the US, it’s also doing something just like this with respect to Turkey and the Kurds.
Russia appears to have finally realized, however belatedly it may be, that the YPG Kurds are under the complete control of the US and are being used as the catalysts for creating a "second geopolitical ‘Israel’” in the heart of the Mideast. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that Russia can’t take advantage of this process in promoting its own interests if it believes that it’s an irreversible eventuality, but just that it can nowadays also appreciate steps taken to thwart or delay this plan such as what Turkey is preparing to do in Afrin. The big difference between the Afrin "canton” and the other Kurdish-occupied territories in northern Syria is that there aren’t any known American bases in the region, so this decreases the strategic ‘collateral damage’ if and when Turkey moves into the area to wipe out what its leadership understands to be terrorists. Russia will passively stand to the side in the military sense, despite whatever rhetoric it spouts out at the time, but it won’t ever formally back this move because it doesn’t want to create the impression that it’s contradicting Damascus’ will.
Syria has publicly come out multiple times in as forceful of a manner as it can in opposing Turkey’s conventional military intervention in the north of the Arab Republic, and although there are reasons to believe that it secretly agreed with Russia to allow this to first happen last summer, it could never openly admit it for domestic political reasons. The same goes for Turkey – for its own domestic political reasons, President Erdogan could never admit to coordinating with President Assad, no matter if this was facilitated through Russian intermediaries or not. Therefore, it’s predicted that neither Russia nor Syria will stand in the way of the Turks’ likely forthcoming offensive in neutralizing the YPG Kurds in Afrin, and the US will probably not intervene either because it has no bases in the area or direct access to the battlespace. It will, however, probably object in the loudest and most forceful terms, ordering its information warfare outlets to assert that Turkey is "supporting terrorism” by fighting against the"anti-terrorist Kurds”, all with the intent of deepening the Turkish-American rift that Washington initiated when it began backing this Marxist militia in the first place a few years ago.
- In parallel with these moves, can we say that Russia’s policy towards the Kurdish separatists has changed?
-Expanding on the previous answer, Russia’s policy towards the YPG has definitely changed, but it’s not an overt one or anything too profound. Remembering that Russia desires to play the role of"balancer” in most situations, it doesn’t want to completely "burn its bridges”with the YPG since it accepts that this group will more likely than not remain in control of northeastern Syria after the war, so Moscow will need to retain some sort of constructive relations with them even if it passively gives a wink-and-a-nod of approval to Turkey to drive them out from Afrin. There is no conceivably realistic scenario where the American bases in the Kurdish-occupied and unilaterally "federalized” areas of northeastern Syria will be forcibly removed by either Syria or Russia. Neither side wants to risk a larger hot war between Great Powers over this territory. Instead, Russia has likely come to terms with the fact that the YPG will try to formally institutionalize their power in this region, most likely by attempting to push through the"federalization” (internal partition) proposal from their 2015 manifesto.
Russia sees a certain opportunity in this, despite the overall disadvantage of the Kurds being used as the US’ enduring regional proxies moving forward. Like it was expressed in the last answer, Russia understands that a simmering – albeit "controllable” – Kurdish threat along Turkey’s southern borderland region can ensure Ankara’s continued military loyalty to Moscow, especially in the context of the Great Power Tripartite between the two and Iran. In addition, Syria ceded control of the post-war reconstruction of its oil and gas industry to Russia last year, and considering that most of these existing resources are now in Kurdish-controlled territory, Moscow has a strategic self-interest in maintaining positive relations with this group so that they honor Damascus’ agreement. Rosneft just invested a billion dollars into the Kurdish Regional Government of Northern Iraq, so it’s clear that Russia desires to become a major player in the Kurds’ energy extraction business, whether in Iraq or neighboring Syria. This explains why Russia still ‘flirts’ with the Kurds despite the pressing threat that they present to both Turkey and Syria.
So to sum it all up, Russia’s policy is now more ambiguous and complicated towards the Kurds. From one angle, it accepts that they’ll remain the primary political actor in northeastern Syria, with the potential existing for the US’ troops in the region to become the formal guarantors of a "Kurdish de-escalation zone” there if an agreement can be reached between Moscow and Washington, which would in turn advance the Kurds’ de-facto "federalization” (internal partition) plans but possibly preempt a forthcoming Syrian Civil War between Arabs (Damascus) and Kurds (YPG). This Russian-"balanced” state of affairs would allow Moscow to extract the promised energy resources from "Rojava” and feel comfortable knowing that the simmering threat that this poses to Turkey will keep Ankara in an indefinite military partnership with Moscow. Alternatively, because of the latter threat that the Kurds pose and the rapidly developing Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership, Moscow has no qualms about Ankara staging ‘surgical strikes’ and limited conventional interventions against them in Afrin or possibly even Manbij as well.
- Would all of these developments stop the "federalization” of Syria?
-The "federalization” (internal partition) of Syria is all but a done deal at this point because of the presence of American military personnel and bases in the Kurdish-occupied northeast of the Arab Republic. There is no way that Russia or Syria would directly engage these forces and risk a larger war to expel them, so both parties will essentially accept this state of affairs while Moscow actively works to maneuver the situation to its strategic advantage. The answer to the last question explained the energy and strategic (vis-à-vis Turkey) roles that Russia envisions that a"Syrian Kurdistan” could have for its interests, and the Russian-written "draft constitution” unveiled in late-January of this year has vague provisions which could be interpreted in such a way as to incorporate the "federalization” of the country under certain circumstances.
The first step in that direction, however, is for the immediate post-war status of the Kurdish-occupied territories to be resolved, and to that end Russia may seek to formalize the American military presence there (since it won’t directly oppose it in any forceful or significant way) by cutting a deal with Washington to make it the formal administrator of a forthcoming "de-escalation zone” in that region. From there, the following Astana and Geneva processes would seek to institutionalize the"decentralization” of the area, whether calling it "federalization” or using a euphemism to avoid the strong condemnation that this might entail from some actors. The point behind these moves is to try and "control” the regionally disruptive process of creating a "Kurdistan” and forestalling or outright preventing both a Syrian Civil War between Arabs and Kurds, and a larger regional conflict that could involve Syria (Damascus), Turkey, Iraq (Baghdad), and Iran.
It’s not being suggested that Russia’s political "concessions” to the Kurds are the ideal solution to the ongoing problem in northeastern Syria, but just that given the reasonable limitation of Moscow abstaining from any "military solution” to this issue, this is the"least bad” option realistically available. That being explained, the aforesaid assessment is from the Russian angle in terms of its grand strategy and will obviously be perceived differently by Turkey and other relevant stakeholders. Ankara might be willing to accept a "federalized” (internally partitioned)"Kurdistan” in northeastern Syria provided that the Ankara-friendly and Kurdish Democratic Party-allied "Kurdish National Council” (KNC) is able to wrest control of the territory from the YPG. That, however, would require either another "Operation Euphrates Shield” and/or a proxy campaign of Ankara-trained Kurds to invade the region and depose the separatists.
In either case, Russia would probably sit back and passively allow it to happen, expecting that it will benefit no matter what the outcome ends up being.
- Turkey has recently refrained from commenting on the future of Bashar Assad. Will Ankara still insist that Assad must go?
-No matter what President Erdogan or the Turkish state publicly says on the issue, it’s very probable that they’ve already resigned themselves to the fact that Bashar Assad will remain the democratically elected and legitimate President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Turkey can’t easily reverse its long-standing policy in pushing for his ouster without there being substantial domestic political controversy, so the ruling AKP would rather not directly address the changing realities which have made it possible for President Assad to remain in office. The Turkish-backed proxy fighters in Syria have been on the retreat for over the past year, and the December 2016 Liberation of Aleppo forever removed the threat that they posed to the Syrian leader. Ankara has therefore lost all of its power to militantly determine President Assad’s political fate, so it’s best for the Turkish leadership to tacitly accept that he’ll remain in office because this also helps them strengthen ties with their Russian partner.
Against this revised strategic backdrop, the fact that Turkey can’t force President Assad out of office doesn’t meant that it’s lost all political-diplomatic power to do so, and it’s probable that Ankara will continue to focus its efforts in this direction, albeit much slowly and less dramatically than it used to do when it was supporting proxy fighters in the country. To explain, all sides to the Syrian conflict agree that there must be a "political solution” to the war, and the UNSC – which crucially includes Russia – previously passed Resolution 2254 in December 2015 which called for a new constitution and elections. Although the 18-month deadline expired at the end of last month, it can be reasonably inferred that the document’s objectives are still being pursued by all members of the Security Council. This in and of itself doesn’t mean that "Assad must go”, but it does admittedly increase the chances that a "phased leadership transition” could occur in order to satisfy this external demand but also prevent a Libyan-like black hole from being created which counteracts all of Russia’s anti-terrorist gains over nearly the past two years.
Russia has said time and again that it is not interested in the political fate of President Assad and that it’s ultimately up to the Syrian people themselves to decide whether or not he remains in office, but by all indications, it does appear as though Moscow has a certain degree of"flexibility” over his fate and wouldn’t object to his "orderly ouster” if this is done in line with "democratic norms” or at least the motion of them. After all, Russia already acquired a new airbase in Syria and the rights to rebuild the country’s oil and gas sector after the war. So long as it’s silently agreed upon that his "successor” – whether an individual, "council”, or whatever other entity/polity prospectively takes power afterwards – won’t reverse these agreements, then Russia, for as cynical as it sounds, doesn’t have any interest in what happens to President Assad, though with the conditional being that whatever changes might transpire must absolutely be "orderly” and not lead to the Libyan scenario.
In light of these Neo-Realist calculations, Turkey could "succeed” in its long-held political ambition to remove President Assad from office if it can convince Russia to push forward with a"transitional government” as its desired "political solution” to the war and in order to obtain the maximum "balancing” position that it could aspire to. It’s not being implied that the "phased transitional” ouster of President Assad is at all to Russia’s best interests (especially as regards the immense soft power that it would sacrifice in the country as a result of being linked to this outcome), nor that a "transitional government” will allow Russia to "balance”anything better than it already has sought to do with President Assad in office, but just that this is the argumentative "logic” that Turkey could try to employ in further swaying Russia over to its side. Moscow, for as surprising as it may sound, could possibly be receptive to this if it was clothed in such a way as advancing its rapprochement with Ankara.
All in all, President Assad will continue to preside over Syria so long as he’s able to run in democratic elections because of the overwhelming support that he has among the populace, which is why the only prospect for his removal entails the ‘election technicalities’ which might become part of any forthcoming "political solution” to the war and could potentially bar him from running or make the presidency a figurehead position. These could only be implemented if Russia agrees to them, which it might end up doing in order to make progress on reaching its hoped-for "New Détente” with the US, though right now it’s too early to say what exactly Moscow’s next moves will be on this front and if it will indeed be enticed in this direction or not.
- Regarding Turkish-American relations, why is the establishment of a Kurdish state in Syria more important for Washington than losing its 50-year-long ally in Ankara?
-To begin answering that question, one needs to understand the origins of the US-Turkish alliance. It started during the opening stages of the Old Cold War and the US’ desire to "contain” the USSR. In this respect, Turkey was an indispensable partner because of its Black Sea and Caucasus borders, control over the Dardanelles, and crucial straddling of the Balkan and Mideast regions. However, the end of the Old Cold War greatly diminished Turkey’s strategic significance in this regard, and there was instead an attempt to reinvent its purpose by having it assist the US in its various Mideast wars. Turkey didn’t rush to get involved in the US’ 2003 War on Iraq, though it did play a part after the fact and continues to sporadically intervene in what is now the Kurdish Regional Government in order to combat the PKK and Islamic terrorists.
The high point of the post-Cold War US-Turkish Strategic Partnership came during the 2011 "Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolution evens, which saw Muslim Brotherhood-allied Turkey poised to become the spiritual leader of a transnational bloc of states run by that organization. The joint intent of the US and Turkey was to facilitate the Muslim Brotherhood’s seizure of power in the broad swath of North Africa and the Levant in order to create the conditions whereby Turkey could lead a "Neo-Ottoman” bloc of Sunni Arab states in equally opposing Iran and the Gulf Kingdoms as per Washington’s unipolar strategy of "divide and rule” "balancing”between both its "allies” (Turkey and the Gulf Arabs) and adversaries (Iran). This plot failed because of a variety of factors, mostly attributable to the descent of Libyan into Somali-like chaos, General Sisi’s overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, and the Syrian people’s sustained resistance to the Hybrid War being waged on their country.
There was hardly anything that Turkey could do to reverse events in Egypt, and it’s geographically far enough from Libya to the extent that it can’t directly influence the course of the civil war in that country, but Syria is literally its neighbor so Ankara therefore shouldered the most direct responsibilities of the US’ "Lead From Behind” proxy war on the Arab Republic. Throughout the course of this campaign, the US and Turkey became closer than at any moment in their recent histories as they worked to coordinate their actions in pursuit of overthrowing President Assad. This, however ‘politically incorrect’ it may be to say, also involved extending material, military, logistical, and personnel support (whether directly or indirectly) to terrorist organizations such as the one which eventually became Daesh.
To be fair, the Turkish government claims to not have been aware of the extent to which this was occurring and blames the Gulenist elements of its "deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) for conspiring to create these groups, but the burden of responsibility for this disastrous outcome nevertheless rests at the feet of the Turkish state for allowing its territory to be used for these purposes. Turkey sacrificed almost all of its previously hard-fought regional soft power gains acquired through the "zero problems with neighbors” policy in order to support the US’ regime change efforts in Syria, which is why it’s probably all the more surprising to most Turks how quickly the US betrayed them for the Syrian Kurds without even the slightest regard for Turkey’s strategic sensitivities. This is the reality of what happens to the US’ "allies” – they’re always betrayed in the end and discarded when they’re no longer necessary, just like Turkey eventually came to be in the past few years.
Russia’s decisive anti-terrorist intervention in Syria forever changed the dynamics of the War on Syria and made it impossible for Islamist groups – whether terrorists or "moderate rebels”, and linked to Turkey or other countries – to stand a chance at overthrowing the government. In fact, the US began to turn against the very same groups that it had previously supported, such as what is now Daesh. The reason behind this shift was because of both the impossibility of them coming to power in Syria and due to the global condemnation that their crimes were generating. Furthermore, Daesh had begun to get out of control, just as Al Qaeda before it did, in no longer working entirely for American purposes and instead fighting back against its patrons from time to time. This dangerous situation was useful so long as the US was able to ‘corral’ Daesh in the direction of its shared interests – the Syrian government – but became useless once Russia put an end to all of this following its September 2015 anti-terrorist intervention.
With it becoming obvious that the Islamist factions of the War on Syria would eventually be defeated after some time, the US made the major decision to shift most, and then eventually all, of its support from these fighters to the Syrian Kurds, understanding that they have the best prospects of carving out a de-facto statelet after the war which could be used as a springboard for projecting American military power throughout the Mideast. The contemporary contours of the New Cold War between the US-led unipolar bloc and the multipolar forces of Russia, China, and Iran make the "second geopolitical ‘Israel’” of "Kurdistan” much more geostrategically significant for Washington than Turkey, especially considering that many of (now-)President Erdogan’s domestic policies are "embarrassing contradictions”of Western "democracy” and soft power liabilities for his country’s Western"allies”. As the US sought to "transition” from its alliance with Turkey to a newly brokered one with the Syrian Kurds, it knew that there was no way that Ankara would sit tight and accept this dangerous state of affairs, which is why it deviously tried to engineer a horrifying geopolitical scenario which was designed to destroy the Turkish state once and for all.
The pro-American Gulenist network that had infiltrated almost every part of the Turkish "deep state” was ordered to provoke a war with Russia, which almost happened when the Russian anti-terrorist jet was shot down over Syria in November 2015. Had the two Great Powers clashed, the US and NATO probably wouldn’t have rushed to Turkey’s defense and would likely have allowed hostilities to go on as long as possible so that their two ‘rivals’ could weaken one another to the fullest extent. When that thankfully didn’t happen, there was a lot of speculation about whether Russia would arm the Turkish Kurds against Ankara, or at least the Syrian ones which would essentially fulfill this same purpose. That, too, didn’t occur, but the context in which all of this was being feverishly discussed in the media was purposely manufactured in such a way that had Russia fallen into this trap, then it would have taken attention away from America’s arming of the YPG and pretty much made Moscow Washington’s ‘useful idiot’ in doing what the US had wanted. Again, Russian strategists and decision makers were much too shrewd to go forward with this suspiciously obvious course of action, and instead sought to reconcile with their Turkish counterparts.
This brilliant maneuver drew Turkey’s full attention to the pro-American Gulenist "deep state” plotters and the US’ active arming of the Syrian Kurds because Ankara’s focus wasn’t obscured by having to worry about Moscow instrumentalizing either of these Hybrid War factors. Slowly but surely, President Erdogan shockingly discovered the far-reaching extent of the US’ betrayal of Turkey, which compelled him to take decisive action to remove these threats such as entering into the fast-moving rapprochement with Russia and investigating the traitorous elements within his country, both of which couldn’t have come at a moment too soon. The US was so distraught by President Erdogan’s unexpected partnership with Russia and the failure of their plans to initiate direct or indirect hostilities between them that they clumsily pushed forward their preexisting coup plans in mid-July, which were thankfully defeated due to a combination of what some sources suspected was a Russian tip-off at the last minute, the rushed nature of the governmental overthrow attempt, and the support that hundreds of thousands of patriotic Turkish civilians gave to their state by coming out in the streets to protest against the Gulenists.
From that point onwards, the US stopped pretending that it wasn’t providing significant military support to the Syrian Kurds, and it also quit with the pretenses that Turkey was still its "ally”. Rather, the American-influenced Mainstream Media began attacking President Erdogan and extending sympathy to Gulen and the coup plotters. The more that President Erdogan "cleansed” the "deep state” of what he believed to be its traitorous elements, the stronger the Western condemnation of him and his country became. The US and its allies were visibly upset because they wanted to get rid of him and turn Turkey into the "next Syria” by provoking a multisided civil war between Islamists & Secularists and Turks & Kurds, with the anticipated outcome being the eventual creation of a transnational "Kurdistan”over the entire southeastern territory of the Turkish Republic. This was supposed to be the US’ ‘parting gift’ to Turkey for its half-century-long"friendship” as America abandoned Ankara for the Syrian Kurds, and it was expected to create enough regional chaos that it would equally offset the strategic stability of Washington’s Russian and Iranian rivals as well.
To wrap it all up, the US ditched Turkey because the radically changing geostrategic imperatives of preserving its unipolar influence over Eurasia following the Russian anti-terrorist intervention in Syria dictated that Washington had more to gain by siding with the Kurds in carving out a "second geopolitical ‘Israel’” in the heart of the Mideast than preserving its decades-long relationship with Ankara.
-Some ideas are being put forward that Turkey and Russia can strategically cooperate in sub-Saharan Africa. How feasible do you think these proposals are from the Russian side?
-There is indeed a convergence of interest between Russia and Turkey in sub-Sahara Africa as both states try to leverage their unique strategic advantages to enter these promising non-Western markets and compete with the existing players there. Both states are relative late-comers to the ‘game’ in the sense that Turkey didn’t start focusing on this part of the world until recently, whereas Russia hadn’t even expressed any serious interests here for most of the past 25 years following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ankara’s benefits are that it is portraying itself as a beacon of "Islamic Democracy” which is becoming more attractive than ever to the Muslims of sub-Sahara Africa, whereas Moscow has an expansive Soviet-era legacy of partnerships that it could rely on in reentering the African space.
Neither Great Power is strong enough in the hard or soft economic and diplomatic forms to compete with China and the West (especially the US-French alliance), and the imminent entrance of India and Japan into the continent through their joint "Asia-Africa Growth Corridor” (also known as the "Freedom Corridor”) is going to make it more difficult than ever for Russia and Turkey to individually make headway in promoting their respective interests in Africa. For this reason, a strong argument can be made that both sides should work together in the sub-Saharan space in order to tighten their redeveloping strategic relations with one another and symbolically demonstrate a civilizational partnership between Islam and Christianity. The coordination of each other’s economic investment assets, soft power, and religious appeal could help Russia and Turkey succeed in their joint African endeavors, and the best place for them to start is in Ethiopia.
This landlocked country is the fastest-growing economy in the world and recently became more easily accessible because of the Chinese-built Djibouti-Addis Ababa railroad. This makes it much more convenient for Russia and Turkey to trade with Ethiopia because they can enter its marketplace through the southern reaches of the Red Sea. Turkish companies are known for their involvement in the commercial sectors, while Russia’s are generally best equipped to handle their partner’s energy and mineral extraction needs, so there’s a certain complementary between the two that could be applied in most efficiently proving that the concept of Russian-Turkish cooperation in sub-Sahara Africa can be economically worthwhile for each of them and the host country. In addition, Ethiopia is almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians, so each respective Great Power could apply the most attractive aspects of their civilizational-religious soft power in appealing to different demographics, which could collectively allow them to influence the entire population.
For as promising as this possibility is, however, it thus far only exists on paper and might not ever materialize so long as Russian experts, businessmen, strategists, and decision makers aren’t even aware of this idea. That’s why a concerted effort must be undertaken to convince these relevant actors of the benefits inherent in promoting a Russian-Turkish partnership in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, Africa is probably the least prioritized region in the world nowadays for the expression of Russian foreign and economic policy, so it’ll be a difficult task to get the country to see the need in formulating a comprehensive strategy for the continent, let alone one which places enormous strategic trust in another partner like Turkey. Nevertheless, if Russians understood just how important this region of the world is slated to be in the coming future, as well as appreciated the significance of broadening their country’s partnership with Turkey, then they might give it a second thought and become more receptive to the idea.
- Turkey’s integration into the Eurasian Union has been frequently discussed in Russian public opinion lately, so how realistic is it that this could happen?
-It’s conceivably possible that Turkey could integrate into the Eurasian Union (EAU), though not like how most Russian pundits are talking about. Instead of becoming a formal member on par with Kazakhstan or Armenia, for example, Turkey could just sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the bloc and enjoy all of the resultant benefits without the same level of commitment. This has already been done by Vietnam, for example, even in spite of its free trade talks with the US through the former Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The model spearheaded by Hanoi in pursuing two separate large-scale free trade agreements could also be replicated by Ankara, though the two countries are in entirely different geostrategic positions which might make it more difficult for Turkey to do that. Right now the West is in the process of "divorcing” Turkey, or at least so long as it’s led by President Erdogan, so they’re looking for every reason they can to further "isolate” it from Europe, though taking care not to "provoke” it "too much” and risk various sorts of asymmetrical responses such as the opening of Turkey’s borders to swarms of EU-destined immigrants.
For all intents and purposes, Turkey will never join the EU in its present formation, whether politically or economically, so it makes sense for its decision makers to look eastwards to the Eurasian Union. No matter how eloquently Turkey’s representatives assure their Western "partners” that any significant decision on pivoting towards this bloc isn’t done "against” them, the move would still be presented as such by the US’ information warfare outlets in order to advance the narrative that Turkey "defected” from the West and is now a "dictatorship” doing all that it can to"side with Russia”. In and of itself, an intensification of the US’ hostile narratives against Turkey won’t change much in practical terms aside from further diminishing Turkey’s standing in the eyes of the average"liberal-democratic” Europeans, though potentially with the unintentional effect of also strengthening the state’s prestige in the eyes of the patriotic populace. It’s only natural for Turkey to seek a FTA with the EAU given that there are almost zero prospects today and in the foreseeable future for it to do the same with the EU, so it should prepare itself for the imminent information onslaught that will come.
With that in mind, such a decision shouldn’t be taken lightly and viewed in the vacuum of only strengthening economic relations with Russia, since moving forward with the FTA with the EAU is a grand strategic decision which will have immediate ramifications on all aspects of Turkish policy. It would instantly imply that Turkey is also interested in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which would be sensible if it’s already brave enough to risk the West’s wrath in expanding trade relations with Russia. The next logical step would of course be to do this with Central Asia, China, India, and perhaps even Iran too if the Islamic Republic is part of the organization by that time. The eastern reprioritization/rebalancing of Turkish strategic policy doesn’t have to be "against” anyone as per the West’s "zero-sum” mentality, but could complement the stalled decades-long Western vector of its relations in a "win-win” way if it’s skillfully applied in such a manner that it increases Ankara’s bargaining leverage with the EU and the US, though more likely than not this will ultimately be unsuccessful so long as Brussels and Washington don’t’ want anything to do with Turkey.
Therefore, the most profound policy step that Turkey could take in charting the course of its 21st-century grand strategy in Eurasia is to reach a FTA with the EAU and then almost immediately afterwards (if not simultaneously) apply to join the SCO as a full-fledged member, as this would place the country on the trajectory of reaping the benefits of the supercontinent’s forthcoming multipolar integration without being beholden to the baggage of its failed unipolar 20th-century ties with the West.
Andrew KORYBKO - Political analyst
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
E-posta hesabınız yayımlanmayacak.