Beyond the Cusp

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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March 2, 2014

Russia and Ukraine Face-Off

A face-off between Russia and the Ukraine would have been more welcomed on the ice at the Olympics in Sochi a few weeks back. Instead the world is facing a heated and anxious situation as Russian troops have entered the port city of Sevastopol, Ukraine which serves as the home port for both the Ukrainian Navy and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The Russians are claiming these troops are within agreed upon levels by treaties they have with the Ukraine and have nothing to do with the recent changes in the Ukrainian governance. For obvious reasons, the new government in Kiev is viewing this other than normal infusion of Russian troops in the areas of the Ukraine populated largely by Russians who were placed there by Stalin during his rule over the Soviet Union. A underlying level of animosity has existed between the Russian and native Ukrainian population which has only intensified as a result of what those Ukrainians who feel a close affinity to Russia feel has been an illegal coup by those who have recently claimed to have replaced the former government of President Viktor Yanukovych after months of protests. Further aggravating what is definitely a delicate situation are the rumors that the Russians are also providing a safe haven for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who has yet to actually fully accept and acquiesce to the fact that there is a new governance going to be elected come May 25th unless something alters the current situation.

 

United States President Obama has expressed concern and warnings to Russian President Putin not to interfere with the “natural progression” currently evolving in Kiev and across the Ukraine. It is highly doubtful that President Putin will be anything other than mildly amused by President Obama issuing warnings as he has had more than enough experiences with the United States President’s Red-Lines. This begs the question why President Putin would only send in a limited force and whether the restraint is due to modest goals or a test to discern what the reactions will be from the rest of the world. Our guess doubts that Putin cares one whit about how the rest of the world, the United Nations included, will react to his placing troops in the Russian areas of the Ukraine. What is far more likely is Putin is only interested in the safety of the southern port at Sevastopol, Ukraine which allows for the Russian entrance to the Mediterranean Sea and from there the Atlantic Ocean and through the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and beyond. There are more than sufficient Russian reserve troops poised on the Ukrainian border along with a fleet of aircraft should a larger assault prove necessary. The fact that the Russian presence is limited in both scope and numbers and basically simply holding two airports in the eastern and southern regions and the port city of Sevastopol, one is led to believe that the Russians are simply protecting critical infrastructure and military infrastructure and may have no intent to challenge the evolving politics in the Ukraine. On the other hand, we may be witnessing the first stages of a repeat of the Russian intervention into Georgian Republic where Russian military forces took by force the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which have large ethnic Russian populations similar to the eastern and southern areas of the Ukraine.

 

The responses available to the nascent leadership in Kiev will be completely dependent upon the support or lack thereof from the Ukrainian military. One can expect that the Ukrainian military would not be overly anxious to test their abilities against the Russians, and it is no wonder why. The basic truth is that whatever Putin decides he wants to do, he has the military power and resources to accomplish and this includes reversing the overthrow of President Yanukovych’s government. This has been further enabled as the Russian parliament unanimously voted to grant President Putin permission to mobilize the country’s military to utilize in the Ukraine. The European Union does not actually have sufficient military to enforce anything and are likely to at most sound some bluster and noise that will have little effect. As far as President Obama, he is far more interested in disassembling and paring down the United States military forces and capabilities than he is about preventing Putin from having his way in the Ukraine. The truth is that the United States under the auspices of President Obama has no international intentions and has basically surrendered all foreign policy decisions to the rest of the world. President Obama has decided to vote “Present” on all things beyond the maritime borders of the United States and maybe not even that far out to sea. His entire foreign policy can be summed up in one goal, force Israel to capitulate to as much of the Palestinians demands as possible and hoping that is sufficient to get a Palestinian state founded and he and Secretary of State Kerry a Nobel Peace Prize. Everything and everyone else, best of luck without us, the US. As we said when President Obama was first elected, welcome to Jimmy Carter on steroids. Jimmy Carter gave us the Ayatollahs ruling Iran and Barack Obama is giving the Ayatollahs a free run at manufacturing their own nuclear weapons. Russia imposing their will on the Ukraine, though a sad affair and unfortunate for those who fought so long to win a fresh start for their nation without corruptocratic rulers, a nuclear armed Iran will result in a far more damaging future and it is all thanks to Barry.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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