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South Asia

Erdogan Says US Can Count on Turkey After Afghanistan Troop Pullout | Source: The Defense Post

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would be the “only reliable” country left to stabilize Afghanistan after the US pulls out its troops, indicating Washington could rely on its NATO ally. Turkey has made clear its intentions to stay in the war-torn country, but the details remain unclear.

Source: The Defense Post


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Middle East

Turkey and Russia consult on Syria and Libya | Source: Middle East Monitor

Turkish officials have met with their counterparts at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow for consultations on the latest developments in Syria and Libya. The delegations discussed preparations for the sixteenth International Meeting on Syria in the Astana format. During the discussion of the Libyan issue, progress was noted on the political, military and economic tracks.

Source: Middle East Monitor


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Europe

France and Turkey attempt to mend fences after long period of confrontation | Source: RFI

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on a visit to Athens, Greece, May 31, 2021.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on a visit to Athens, Greece, May 31, 2021. 

Turkish Foreign Minister is visiting France, the first high-level diplomatic contact after months of tensions between the two countries. Points of contention between the two countries include Turkey’s military backing of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya; the dispute over Turkish gas exploration off the northern coast of the divided island of Cyprus; Turkey’s increasingly dominant role in northern Syria, and Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan against Armenia during the recent standoff over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Source: RFI


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Expert Analysis

China’s Promise Of Full Support To Syria Might Be A Geopolitical Game-Changer

China’s Promise Of Full Support To Syria Might Be A Geopolitical Game-Changer

4 JUNE 2021

China

President Xi’s telegrammed promise of full support to Syria after its latest elections could be a geopolitical game-changer if his rhetoric presages a new reality wherein the People’s Republic assists its Arab counterpart with perfecting its tricky balancing act between various powers.

Syria’s Balancing Act

Syria’s been mired in a geopolitical dilemma for quite a few years already whereby it’s been pressured by friendly and hostile powers alike to implement political reforms so as to advance its struggling peace process. This has taken the from of both of the Russian-written “draft constitution” of 2017 which was a much more gentle form of such pressure aimed at encouraging mutual compromises between all legitimate sides of the conflict as well as America’s much more aggressive efforts to force Damascus into unilateral political concessions. Caught between these two rival parties that are in essence pushing for very similar structural outcomes, Syria cleverly deflected by comprehensively strengthening its relations with Iran so as to improve its strategic position and thus buy it more time until a possible breakthrough can occur.

Iranian Risks

The Iranian vector of Syrian grand strategy isn’t without its challenges though since Russia and the US would both prefer for the Islamic Republic’s military forces to leave the Arab one, albeit for different reasons, despite them being invited to legally operate there by Damascus. Russia envisions a prospectively dignified but phased Iranian withdrawal as providing the impetus for a larger series of diplomatic deals aimed at securing a long-term peace in West Asia whereas the US is always simply against the expansion of Iran’s regional influence in principle. Both Great Powers are also allied with “Israel” to differing extents, which regards the Iranian military presence in neighboring Syria as a serious threat to its national security. Nevertheless, Syria remained loyal to Iran and refused to request its departure despite literally hundreds of “Israeli” bombings over they ears.

Background Reading

The background context is much more complex than described above, but intrepid readers can review the author’s prior analyses on these complicated dynamics if they’re interested in learning more about the particular details and dynamics:

* 3 February 2017: “Syria: Digging Into The Details Of The Russian-Written ‘Draft Constitution’

* 22 August 2018: “Chaos Theory, Hybrid War, And The Future Of Syria

* 3 February 2021: “Korybko Interview With Iran’s Farhikhtegan Newspaper

* 7 February 2021: “Syria Should Talk With The US Since Its Iranian & Russian Allies Are Already Doing So

* 8 February 2021: “Balancing Regional Interests In Syria Is The Only Way To Reach A Compromise Solution

* 26 February 2021: “Why Isn’t Alt-Media Asking About The S-300s After Biden’s Latest Strike In Syria?

* 17 March 2021: “Should Iran Be Worried About Russia’s Coordination With ‘Israel’ & The US In Syria?

* 25 May 2021: “The Strategic Significance Of The Syrian Elections

To sum it all up, Syria basically seemed destined to inevitably implement some form of political concessions aimed at decentralization together with requesting Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal of the country in order to stand any serious chance at removing the US’ unilateral sanctions and thus finally rebuilding.

The Chinese Game-Changer

All the above-mentioned insight was relevant for years but might soon become outdated depending upon whether China’s latest rhetoric presages a new reality. President Xi promised in the telegram that he sent to his Syrian counterpart after the latter’s latest elections that the People’s Republic “will provide all possible assistance…in revitalizing the country’s economy and improving the lives of the population”, among other things such as COVID-19 aid and enhancing bilateral relations. This was always an emerging scenario though one whose likelihood greatly increased over the past half-year as evidenced by the author’s relevant analyses:

* 13 November 2020: “China’s Belt & Road Initiative Can Help Syria Rebuild After The War

* 15 December 2020: “Korybko: Complementary Role Of Iran, China, Russia In Syria’s Reconstruction

* 4 April 2021: “Korybko: 25-Year Deal Is A Message To The US: Iran & China Won’t Be ‘Contained’

In short, the recently clinched 25-year Chinese-Iranian Strategic Partnership enables the People’s Republic to connect with the Islamic one via Pakistan by expanding the Belt & Road Initiative’s flagship project of CPEC westward through the W-CPEC+ vision. This emerging corridor can then expand further westward to Syria. Furthermore, Iran’s deeply entrenched influence and the unquestionable trust that its representatives have with their Syrian counterparts can open up important doors for China there. The end result is that Damascus might not have to implement any compromises if Beijing’s BRI assistance helps reliably rebuild the country.

Strategic Consequences

Up until this point, Russia seemingly took it for granted that China wouldn’t seriously invest in Syria anytime soon owing to the unresolved political-military situation there which could endanger its BRI projects. Nevertheless, the People’s Republic apparently interpreted the latest elections’ successful conclusion as a strong message to the world conveying the fact that everything in the Arab Republic is finally getting back on track enough that China can now consider more comprehensively investing there. Should that transpire as planned, then Russia’s strategic leverage in Syria would comparatively decline as Damascus wouldn’t have any incentive to carry out the compromises that Moscow’s gently encouraged for the past few years, including the one related to requesting Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal from the country.

Russian Calculations

Russia’s regional balancing act might therefore become comparatively less balanced if Moscow is no longer able to deliver on the grand diplomatic deals that it envisioned and presumably also at the very least intuited to its new partners like “Israel” and Turkey. In addition, Russia’s previously dominant economic position in Syria might soon be challenged through China’s “friendly competition” there. Syria of course stands to benefit by playing these two Great Powers off against one another in pursuit of the best reconstruction deals possible, but Russia might still be silently displeased at losing some of its strategic leverage over the country. Russia can always indirectly facilitate “Israel’s” bombing campaigns against Iran to reduce the latter’s influence there, but it can’t do anything to counter China’s. This observation suggests that the Kremlin’s Syrian policy might soon change.

From “Monopolization” To “Accommodation”

Russia’s “strategic culture” has a centuries-long tradition of influencing policymakers to “monopolize” the foreign regions in which they operate whereby Moscow becomes the unquestionably dominant power in those places. That started changing after the end of the Old Cold War, especially in areas where Russia used to hold the greatest sway. NATO’s eastward march saw Russia begrudgingly “accommodating” the military bloc in Central & Eastern Europe while BRI’s expansion into Central Asia saw the Eurasian Great Power more enthusiastically do the same there with its top strategic partner. As a result of last year’s Karabakh War, Russia was compelled to pragmatically “accommodate” Turkey in the South Caucasus, just as it’s seemingly about to do with China in Syria, the crown jewel of Moscow’s Mideast grand strategy, following President Xi’s telegram.

The New Reality

The overarching trend is that Russia is flexibly adapting to the emerging Multipolar World Order, including in the evolving context of World War C, which resulted in it transitioning from its “monopolization” model to its newfound “accommodation” one. In the Syrian case, this will likely see Russia lessening some of the “friendly pressure” that it’s previously put upon Damascus to implement Moscow’s envisioned compromises, including the request for Iran to commence a dignified but phased withdrawal. The Eurasian Great Power might soon realize that Syria could simply replace it with China as the Arab Republic’s preferred strategic partner, understanding that Moscow will militarily remain in the country as previously agreed but won’t be economically rewarded with profitable reconstruction contracts if it doesn’t fully “accommodate” Damascus related interests.

Concluding Thoughts

Provided that China carries through on President Xi’s promise and that Iran hasn’t already clinched a secret deal with the US to gradually withdraw from Syria as part of a larger compromise on its nuclear program (which doesn’t seem too likely and would probably become impossible if principalists/conservatives win the upcoming elections later this month), then there’s a very high chance that the geopolitical game has suddenly changed in Syria. Russian-Syrian relations will remain excellent, but their exact nature might somewhat change if Damascus more confidently plays the Chinese card to protect its political and military interests connected with its refusal to implement various compromises as well as request Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal. The US surely won’t be happy with such a development, but there’s little that it can realistically do to reverse this trend.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: China, Syria, Russia, Iran, Turkey, US, Israel, Balancing.


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Eurasia

Russia says S-400 deal with Turkey continues as planned, refutes expulsion rumors | Source: Yeni Safak

The Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation has rubbished media reports claiming that Turkey plans to expel Russian military experts helping it operate the S-400 air defense missile system due to mounting U.S. pressure.

Source: Yeni Safak


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Middle East

Turkey denounces Israel’s new settlement units in West Bank | Source: Yeni Safak

Turkey slammed Israel’s new project to build settler units in the Beit El settlement, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The continuing of such provocations while the suffering in Gaza is still fresh shows that the Israeli authorities have not taken any lessons from the incident that took place, said a Foreign Ministry statement.

Source: Yeni Safak


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Middle East

Erdoğan calls on Egypt, to maximise cooperation with Turkey | Source: Ahval News

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been fractured since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in a 2013 military coup and launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey became a safe haven for top Muslim Brotherhood figures, opposed to the government in Cairo. Turkey and Egypt have serious cooperation opportunities in a wide range of areas from the eastern Mediterranean to Libya.

Source: Ahval News


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Europe

Turkey Undermines NATO, Yet Again | Source: The Globalist

Turkey has reportedly used its veto power as a member of NATO to water down an official condemnation of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, for forcing down of a passenger plane, in order to arrest Roman Protasevich, a dissident journalist on board. Erdogan’s move to protect Russia’s Belarusian ally is only the latest case of collusion between Ankara and Moscow to undermine NATO.

Source: The Globalist


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Eurasia

Russia resumes gas supply to Turkey | Source: Neftegaz Ru

Russian gas producer Gazprom has resumed supplies to Turkey via the Blue Stream gas pipeline. Turkey is currently importing approximately 50 % of its gas needs from Russia, making Ankara the 2nd most valuable market for Russian gas after Germany.

Source: Neftegaz Ru


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Turkey’s Military Engagement With The Lublin Triangle Aims To Balance Russia

Turkey’s Military Engagement With The Lublin Triangle Aims To Balance Russia

27 MAY 2021

Turkey

Poland’s agreement to purchase Turkish attack drones speaks to Ankara’s desire to enhance military engagement with the Warsaw-led “Lublin Triangle” in order to balance Russia’s recent geostrategic gains in the Black and Mediterranean Sea regions that the West Asian country might have suspiciously considered to be an unstated attempt by Moscow to contain it.

Russian-Turkish relations are incredibly complex, but can nowadays be characterized as a “friendly competition” between historic rivals whose leaders ultimately decided to responsibly regulate this dynamic for the sake of stability within their overlapping “spheres of influence”. I explained this more at length in an analysis that I wrote for Azerbaijan’s Axar in early April asking “Will Turkey’s Partnership With Ukraine Worsen Its Relations With Russia?” Generally speaking, this model of “friendly competition” is sustainable, though only so long as neither side does anything to decisively upset the military balance between the other and any of their rivals. That’s why Russia is so concerned about Turkey’s sale of combat drones to Ukraine since these could shift the military dynamics in Donbass. Foreign Minister Lavrov also warned Turkey against “fueling Kiev’s militaristic sentiment” earlier this week, but it’s Turkish-Polish military cooperation that might be much more dangerous.

Polish President Duda agreed to purchase 24 Turkish attack drones during his latest trip to the country in Ankara’s first such sale to an EU or NATO state. What’s so disturbing about this development is that Poland previously lost the war games that it staged earlier this year related to a speculative conflict with Russia, one in which neighboring Kaliningrad would play a major role for both sides. In that scenario, Russia would either attack Poland from that region or be attacked by Poland there. Either way, the point is that Kaliningrad is in Poland’s military crosshairs and represents the only realistic target for the Central European country’s new Turkish drones other than Belarus, the latter of which is part of the Russian-led CSTO mutual defense pact so any Polish attack against it could in theory be treated as an attack against Russia itself. Considering the intensity of Poland’s “negative nationalism” vis-a-vis Russia, a drone attack against either can’t be discounted.

It’s one thing for the US to bolster its Polish regional proxy’s offensive military capabilities and another for Turkey to do the same, especially considering the sensitive nature of contemporary Russian-Turkish relations and associated need to not disrupt the fragile balance between them. By selling drones to both Ukraine and Poland, Turkey is essentially enhancing its military engagement with the Polish-led “Lublin Triangle” which aims to “contain” Russian influence in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) both at Poland’s independent prerogative but also America’s indirect behest. Poland aspires for regional hegemonic status through this platform, the core of the “Three Seas Initiative”, which could also help it reduce Germany’s influence in this strategic space as an asymmetrical response to its neighbor’s ongoing Hybrid War against it and especially against the backdrop of the US pragmatically allowing the Nord Stream II pipeline that Warsaw is so suspicious of to be completed.

It’s unclear exactly why Turkey would so provocatively bolster the Lublin Triangle’s military capabilities through attack drone sales to both the bloc’s Polish leader and its Ukrainian partner, but it might be the case that Ankara believes that this is a symmetrical response of sorts to recent Russian geostrategic gains in the Black and Mediterranean Seas that the West Asian country might have suspiciously considered to be an unstated attempt by Moscow to contain it. To explain, Russia’s victory in the 2008 peace enforcement operation against Georgia secured Abkhazia within its “sphere of influence”, while Crimea’s 2014 democratic reunification with Russia further expanded Moscow’s influence in the Black Sea that it shares with Turkey. On the southern front, Russia’s decisive 2015 anti-terrorist intervention in Syria placed the country’s military forces squarely within Turkey’s soft underbelly.

Although Russia has no intention whatsoever to attack Turkey, both due to their leaders’ pragmatic agreement to regulate their “friendly competition” within their overlapping “spheres of influence” and also to avoid an apocalyptic World War III scenario with NATO, Ankara might have nevertheless feared such a scenario no matter how unlikely it is in reality. This might especially have been the case ever since the agreement to deploy Russian peacekeepers to part of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region as part of last November’s Moscow-mediated ceasefire between that country and Armenia. Although Turkish troops are there too, this still might not have dampened suspicious of the containment scenario. In response, Turkey might have thought it necessary to enhance its military engagement with the Polish-led Lublin Triangle, ergo its drone sales to Ukraine and most recently Poland.

What’s so concerning about these possible calculations is that Russia probably hadn’t ever thought that CEE would become a theater of “friendly competition” with Turkey. Unlike Turkish moves in the South Caucasus (Azerbaijan), Levant (Syria), and North Africa (Libya), its attack drone sales to those two Lublin Triangle states directly affect Russia’s national security. By contrast, Russian moves in the South Caucasus (Abkhazia and Azerbaijan’s Karabakh), Black Sea (Crimea), and Levant (Syria) don’t pose any such threat to Turkey’s national security since Moscow remains in full control of its forces there and isn’t building up its partners’ military capabilities as anti-Turkish proxies. With these observations in mind, Russia might need to review the nature of its “friendly competition” with Turkey, perhaps even as high as the leadership level due to the fact that the very close ties between their Presidents is largely responsible for managing these dynamics.

Some frank discussions between their leaders could be forthcoming if Russia believes that Turkey’s attack drone sales to those Lublin Triangle states could adversely affect the military balance between it and those two recipient countries. Turkey must clarify the reasons behind its enhanced military engagement with this unquestionably anti-Russian bloc that’s forming before Moscow’s eyes right on its very borders. It would still be concerning if Turkey is just doing it for the sake of business, but even worse if it’s for some larger strategic purpose. In either case, the move can be interpreted as unfriendly but perhaps also as a sly means for Turkey to restore the balance between it and Russia if some of its decision makers (whether rightly or wrongly) regard it as having recently tilted in Moscow’s favor, especially after last year’s peacekeeper deployment in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh. Regardless of its ultimate intent, the situation must be clarified soon in order to preserve their pragmatic ties.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, Drones, Lublin Triangle, Three Seas Initiative, 3SI, US, Russia, Balancing.


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