Beyond the Cusp

October 30, 2016

Why We Think Trump Had Said NATO is a Problem

 

Donald Trump is doing something of which very few of us will ever understand the difficulty. For people used to blurting out whatever is on their minds, damn the consequences, it becomes even rougher row to hoe. Being of a similar mold and having attempted a run for office you quickly realize that there are some truths you hold close and can never reveal as they are one of many blocks of Kryptonite. The problem arises at some point where your natural nature breaks through and you start to speak one of those truths which must not be spoken and as they start to slip your lips you recover just short of the hidden nugget within which is the real poison to your campaign, so you quickly and abruptly end your sentence as smoothly as possible. The media, the darling little devils, are a devious lot and when they smell an opening, they are like jackals on carrion tearing at the carcass of the bedeviled thought seeking that hidden nugget. When Donald Trump complained about NATO, I got the sense that his problem was not the financial costs as he maintained upon further pressure from many media types. As Trump is closer to a third party candidate where there is no Republican running, he has been pestered and hammered from both ends of the media and his rather combative nature tends to allow for more unforced, though coerced or due to carefully laid traps, misspeaks and half-speaks leading him ever further down the rabbit hole, and wonderland is the worst place for a politician to end up as there it most certainly ends with the Red Queen screaming, “Off with his head,” pointing at them. And who wants to be executed by a horde of red animated playing cards? Such has been the NATO issue and the reason is far more potentially intriguing than the answers we have been giving, not that we disagree with having those nations incapable of providing the troops required to field NATO adequately to its demands having to pay the United States for making up the difference.

 

Thinking of what else Donald Trump might have been told which could include NATO it became obvious when it leaked into our ears, well, before our eyes really, the answer to the riddle and it concerns one of our pet problems with the world, Kurdish independence. The plan is to make Syria a collection of autonomous cantons with the Syrian government responsible solely for those items which cross the borders such as main roadways, money, national defense and others. The first canton mentioned was for the Kurds in the north and northeast of Syria. This was leaked as part of a report by respected Turkish journalist Mahmut Borzarslan who gave information we received in one of our memos from American Center for Democracy concerning a plan being brought forward initially in Syria by the Russians. The initial laying out of the plan while receiving all-out support by the Kurdish representatives was roundly dismissed as pure fancy with no hope of acceptance by the Syrian government of Bashir al-Assad be their position less tenable than they may yet realize. What makes this all the more interesting is that the Kurds would be natural allies to the United States as they have proven extremely helpful in Iraq allowing American forces to concentrate on the bigger problems while they basically ruled and kept straight the entire northern third of Iraq and assisted with the pacification of Mosul. Further, the Syrian Kurds, with assistance from their Iraqi cousins, have had the greatest success against the Islamic State defending their own held areas while liberating other areas with some of the toughest fighting coming for control of the city of Kobanê, which they accomplished with some assists in the form of targeting Islamic State positions with bombings, and a remarkably few at that. The Russians will soon point out that if Bashir al-Assad desires to remain among the living and rule over anything he will need to realize two things, he can only hope to rule an Alawite Canton and only that with the second, Russian assistance and if he desires the second he will need to accept the first. This he will understand even if the Russians need ground their planes, silence their artillery and retreat their forces to hold only Latakia and protect their naval instillations there.

 

There is no means on Earth which would make this idea acceptable to President Obama as his new best friend forever and darling of the Muslim Brotherhood since the fall of Egyptian President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government has been Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The removal of Morsi and his gang of undesirables proved the Egyptian people more knowledgeable than the United States President and State Department, the latter not that difficult a feat as it takes minimal common sense and does not require literacy, calling on even the military to retake power as they would be a kinder and more beneficent master. The added problem is where Donald Trump and NATO come into the picture. Turkey is a member of NATO due to their geography. They hold the southern front on Russia, formerly the Soviet Union and the reason for NATO, and control the Dardanelles, the waterway and series of straights leading from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and the world and also the Russian access to a warm water access to the Atlantic Ocean (see map below). Being a NATO member, Turkey could claim and likely verify terrorist threats against her by Kurds being aided and secluded by Syrian Kurds making a case for it being an act of war. As attacking Kurdish region of Syria would place Turkish fighter aircraft in space over Russian zones and might even draw Russian assistance to the Kurdish side as the Kurdish actions have aided Russian interests, they could demand military assistance under the NATO Charter. Should the United States enter such a conflict in even the smallest of means; one could bet the Kurds would have no alternative but to request Russian assistance even simply to provide air cover to prevent bombings as the Kurds have no air forces and likely minimal if any air defenses. Remember that Turkey has already downed a Russian fighter jet under somewhat questionable conditions and Russia is not a nation to forget such and jump at an opportunity to repay in kind and then some. This could quickly get out of hand with Russian and NATO, potentially including United States, aircraft in combat against one another. Does any rational person really want to see where such could lead?

 

From the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards Across the Black Sea then Through the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the Atlantic Ocean

From the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards
Across the Black Sea then
Through the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles
to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the Atlantic Ocean

 

For this reason and numerous others, it will be best left until after the United States Presidential Elections and the late January inauguration before any serious negotiations on such a solution can have any hope to progress. This is where Hillary Clinton can claim that Putin would prefer Donald Trump as both she and dear Vlad know theirs would be a tumultuous relationship at best and adversarial at the very least. If there is to be any cooperation between the United States and Russia on Syria and a host of other areas, then Donald Trump need be the next United States President. Hillary Clinton has already made it clear that her foremost foreign policy objective will be to humble and force Putin to bow before her will from the very first moments of her reign. This is also one of the main unspoken fears, dare we say horrors, many foreign policy theorists and experts foresee. The guaranteed irritant on so many trouble spots and potential disasters would result from a continuation of an American shirking of international responsibilities. Should America continue leading from ever further behind soon to never even arrive, added to a focus on pressing only Russia and President Putin frustrating him while continuing to arm “rebels” in Syria, could lead to an ever greater set of conflicts. Add the blindness to Islamic pressures and subversions would bring much of the ensuing violence down initially upon Europe and soon thereafter on the United States as well. As learned, or not, from both world wars, the United States sitting on the sidelines refusing to lead the powers of democratic governance, freedom and liberty against the powers of darkness and human bondage; be it physical, mental, spiritual or otherwise; only prolongs the insufferable carnage and adds, nay, multiplies the numbers of combatants and innocent civilians slaughtered and can even place the final outcome in doubt as was the reality in World War II where had the Nazis broken through Stalingrad and connected to the Arabian oil fields the outcome may have been very different. Of course should Donald Trump become complacent concerning the possible designs Vladimir Putin may be considering for Eastern Europe and many of the former Warsaw Pact nations, that too could lead in a very threatening and dangerous direction. Oh the trials and tribulations of trying to run the world with so many other actors filling the stage. The solution in Syria will never resurrect the visions of Bashir al-Assad and he may become the sole obstruction to an agreement all the other groups agree with once the Islamic State has been vanquished, an inevitability no matter who wins the election. Such a position would make Assad a problem for Russia, and even worse, for Putin which would make Assad no longer desirable. That would be a very nasty place to be standing surrounded by Russian military and special agents and further, Bashir al-Assad is not unreplaceable with a new and compliant Alawite leader and there are likely quite a few just waiting for such an opportunity. Assad should remember the Arab Code, “Me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel.”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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November 29, 2015

NATO and the Turkey Problem

 

We here at BTC have warned about the eventual problem that Turkey was going to pose for NATO any number of times over the years going back to our article The Turkey Problem for NATO, though we never envisioned it might mean war with Russia to be honest. We saw the problem coming between Turkey and Israel which only was heightened after the Mavi Marmara blockade running confrontation between Israeli Special Forces and the terrorists placed on the lead ship intentionally by IHH terrorist groups posing as a human rights group in our article Let’s Talk Turkey. The problem we saw forming between Turkey and NATO remained centered on their different Middle East views particularly when it came to Israel. This became heightened once again over Iraq and the Second Iraq War when once again the ever more so drifting from a secular state into an Islamic state when at the onset of the second Iraq War Turkey’s entrenched leader refused NATO ally the United States from launching the second pincer of the initial engagement from within Turkey, as originally planned, in the article Turkey Needs to Prove They Belong in NATO Now. Turkey has continued their slide into an Islamic state replete with a strongman with near dictatorial powers in Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was here in September of 2014 we continued to question the reason for continuing to have Turkey in NATO. The initial reason had been as a stalwart NATO member who could bottle up the bulk of the Russian Mediterranean fleet by refusing them access to the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles, originally and often still referred to as the Strait of Constantinople, through which any ships docked in the Black Sea would necessarily have to pass to make their way from the Black Sea through the Mediterranean Sea and onto the Atlantic Ocean, the only passage once the northern route freezes every winter. It was partially due to having a docking and repair facility which was one of the factors in the Russian seizure of the Crimean and the docks at the port city of Sevastopol and the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards which is the resting and repair port for the Russian Atlantic Fleet during the winter months. One can see the tactical necessity the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles in the map below.

 

 

From the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards Across the Black Sea then Through the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the Atlantic Ocean

From the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards
Across the Black Sea then
Through the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles
to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the Atlantic Ocean

 

 

After the Cold War ended, or at least ended until the current outward weakened appearance of the United States under President Obama, this tactical necessity for containing the Russian Atlantic fleet became far less important. Since the increased strength of the Russian naval forces, particularly its Atlantic and Mediterranean fleet the passage through these Turkish chokepoints had appeared to have lessened. That was before the current madness which is Syria and the Russian presence with both boots in the war in support of Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. Suddenly fleet access to Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards has once again become of importance, or at least would have except for the lead from behind, well behind, foreign policy, or lack thereof, once again could have blockaded the heavy vessels of the Russian fleet. As it stands currently, the Russian Navy has been sending one of their large cruisers and battleships through these waters in order to have them in the Mediterranean Sea just in case they may be required in Syria. This is also the reason that the Russians are so concerned about their and the Iranian’s puppet in Syria, Bashir al-Assad. The Russians have set up forces both land and sea around the most important area in Syria, the western strip from Damascus with its international airport to the dock city of Latakia as seen in the map below.

 

 

Area West of Demarcation Line is Minimal Area for Russia to Control which Includes Most Military and Dual Use Areas Including the All-Important Area Around Damascus and Latakia Granting Access to Damascus International Airport and the Latakia Shipyards and Docks

Area West of Demarcation Line is Minimal Area
for Russia to Control which Includes Most Military
and Dual Use Areas Including the All-Important
Area Around Damascus and Latakia Granting
Access to Damascus International Airport
and the Latakia Shipyards and Docks

 

 

As the fighting in Syria worsened, especially for Assad and the Russian interest back in February of this year and it began to appear that the Alevites who are the tribe, which the Assad Family belongs, supporting Bashir al-Assad and in turn the Russians we noted the necessity for any outside forces, primarily the United States and NATO, in our article Battle for Middle East and Beyond Are Now Choosing Sides. This article included the Iranian influence as well as the Kurdish forces the neighboring situation in Iraq, ISIS, now calling themselves the Islamic State, but had not included the Russians as their main concerns back then included areas around Latakia and its naval base which was Russian built and was not exactly intended for the Syrian Navy, like they have one. At that time Turkey was less concerned with Assad as they were the Kurdish forces which had actually begun to merge between the Syrian Kurdish fighters and areas with their considerably stronger Kurds in the northern third of Iraq. This was the set-up which leads us directly to the present situation.

 

The sides have been aligned and the battle lines drawn. Russia has ended any pretense of soft support of Bashir al-Assad and the Iranian influence and can be expected to only increase their footprint. Where such may end is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, the Islamic State appears to be mostly cementing their control over the large area they have carved out between Syria and central Iraq and cleaning house while trying to hold their own against the pressures from the Kurdish Militias, the Peshmerga Militias, who have retaken some of the major cities formerly under Kurdish control or belonged to the Yazidis. The areas liberated from Islamic State forces have revealed the true horrors which are the Islamic State including mass graves. The group presumably vetted and supported by the United States, the so-called Free Syrian Army has proven to be more embarrassment than force to be feared. These forces have been degraded to the point of virtual uselessness but these are still President Obama’s reason d’etre for being even minimally involved in the fight against the Islamic State. Whatever remnants of the Free Syrian Army can be fielded, are being attacked by Russia. This is important for another reason, these were the side backed by Turkey as well as the United States which have served as the conduit for United States aid monies and equipment has been placed into the battle. Much of what was sent presumably for the American trained forces but ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda. The ultimate joke of the entire tragedy which is the Syrian Civil War has been the training and equipping of the Free Syrian Army which had become all but useless as a force in Syria all while the United States invested millions upon millions of dollars and succeeded in training as few as five soldiers and definitely under a dozen. This is the force President Obama has supported and trained almost completely out of existence. These were also Turkey’s best hope for defeating al-Assad and the Turkish pipeline now feeds al-Qaeda forces and very likely is still allowing supplies to flow to the Islamic State just as Turkey has been selling their crude oil and mixing into the Turkish supplies which are piped to refineries and on to Europe. So, the lines have been drawn and the different sides defined even to include the double-dealing of Turkey at the orders from Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A state of status-quo has seemingly set in with the Russians now enforcing al-Assad which includes siding with Iran and fighting the presumably vetted fighters of the Free Syrian Army.

 

This is the force along with al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood presumably supported through the United States efforts and also by Turkey’s efforts and which the Russians have invested their main efforts of their attacks. This has placed the United States technically allied with the Russians against the Islamic State while also supporting those selfsame groups which includes the remnants of the Free Syrian Army all of which being made insignificant due to the efforts by the Russian efforts to degrade their abilities to fight. These forces receive some weak-willed support from Turkey as well as the majority of the United States as these were the forces which were to bring free and open elections to the remnants of the Syrian people who remain. The interesting alignments come to the fore with the Kurds who are despised by Turkey, supported to some extent by Europe and the United States, though most of this aid goes to the Kurdish forces in Iraq; have neutral relations with the Russians and are despised for their success in resisting even some of the greatest efforts by the Islamic State which revolved around Kobane. It was this front of fighting which melded together the two separate Kurdish groups into one Kurdish nation, well, at least as much a nation as is the Islamic State or the remnants of what was Iraq which has had its central region taken by the Islamic State which is now closing in on Baghdad, the Iraqi Capital City. The support structure of the Syrian campaign which has been defined as intended to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, ISIL as President Obama refers to them as well as the Junior Varsity, is confusing to say the least.

 

But much of this all fell by the wayside in the last few days as this was the week that somebody took their stand as solidly as possible and then immediately reassured itself of the backing of the group to which they belong and had a pivotal role to play previously. We are referring to the shoot-down of the Russian fighter-bomber by Turkish anti-aircraft weapons. There were initial reports that one of the Russian pilots managed to parachute from the stricken jet after it was struck by Turkish fire and was captured and executed by Turkish forces but those reports have been found to be false. The pilot in question was rescued in a twelve-hour operation involving Special Forces according to Russia sources. This may help to deescalate the crisis which is Turkey at the moment. It has been suspected, actually a lot stronger than suspected all the way past known and into certitude, which Turkey has been key for Islamic State recruitment allowing them to set up interviewing sessions in hotels which were moved every few weeks to give the appearance of having to avoid being too overt. It is a shame that Turkey did not follow this charade up by having heavily armed police storm the room in the hotel which was used right after they had moved on. This covert on-the-sly support for Islamic State’s most important business, recruitment and their sale of oil, to be channeled through Turkey who makes out financially well due to these facts. Everyone knows that Russia, especially under Putin, does not let things lie unbalanced from their favor even if it takes decades for them to serve-up their cold dish of retribution, some might call it revenge or even vengeance. Turkey must expect some payback from Putin; the only debate is how serious the Russian vengeance will be. What was distressing was that within a few hours Istanbul (Constantinople) had placed a call to Brussels, Belgium in order to request that NATO forces and nations stand ready to support Turkey in the case of any overly overt acts by Russia such as an invasion to take control of Turkey’s greatest asset, the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles, the gateway which separates Europe from Asia. This has been the classic line between the two continents. Now it could become the initial battle in a much greater conflict should it become a reading of blows with each one made to be one measure harder than the previous measure. The main question NATO may need to answer is whether that old remnant from the first Cold War has any teeth or validity now in what is rapidly becoming the second cold War and may go hot at any moment as long as threats of escalation or simply this for that trade-offs to continue.

 

 

Various Stages of Russian Fighter/Bomber During Turkey’s Provocation Over Claimed Airspace Violation by the Russian Pilot

Various Stages of Russian Fighter/Bomber
During Turkey’s Provocation Over Claimed
Airspace Violation by the Russian Pilot

 

 

Where this will go nobody at this moment other than Russian leader Putin and potentially Turkey’s leader Erdogan can say. Both men are strong willed and willing to go to any lengths to maintain their power. Putin switched the job descriptions for the offices of President and Prime Minister in order to get around the term limit and switched everything back as he returned to his previous position. On the other hand, Erdogan used his party and influence to prevent any government from taking power in order to force new elections where through intimidation and other frauds was able to return his party to absolute power with a majority of the seats in the Turkish Parliament. These are the extents these two men have used to remain in power for most if not all of this young century. We can be assured that neither will back down nor will they let such assaults lie without some form of retribution. Meanwhile, there has already been ramification with Russian Foreign Minister cancelling his visit to Turkey which was scheduled for early next month. There have also been a number of trade deals backed out of and voided placing financial pressures on a nation which can ill afford any such disruptions. Truth be told, both nations are financially vulnerable at the moment and this could have further ramification on a world financial situation where very few nations are sitting particularly safe from fallout if a trade war ensues between Turkey and Russia as this would mean potentially Russia refusing to use the oil pipelines which cut through Turkey which would be a major blow to the Turkish economy. One can bet that for as long as this is a contentious issue that Russians will not be vacationing on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, another financial hit on Turkey. Relations and actions will be measured and may quiet as long there are no future provocations between Turkey and Russia though I expect that Russian aircraft may avail themselves of taking bombing routes dangerously close and likely over the Syrian Turkey border rendering that border being crossed by Russian aircraft making raids on Syria acceptable and this be Putin’s revenge because it is the also on the face with the gauntlet followed by throwing at the feet of Erdogan just daring him to take another shot at one of the Russian aircraft ignoring the border at their leisure. This could get intense and seriously large real fast, especially if these two leaders start to play the international form of the game of chicken as neither one of these leaders will even flinch, let alone swerve away at the last moment; this situation would produce a clash of massive proportions which Turkey would be well-advised to avoid because against Putin, Erdogan would lose and Turkey be irrevocably damaged, perhaps destroyed would be more appropriate a term.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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