Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 34 n° 316

Turkey and Russia: a slow-fuse time bomb in the Middle East

Posted by fidest press agency su mercoledì, 6 gennaio 2016

erdoganBy Charles Millon GIS Expert. The war for public opinion over the Middle East is heating up between Moscow and Ankara. Since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on its border with Syria in late November, the recriminations have been flying. Each of these powers is accusing the other of playing Daesh’s game, one by supporting the moderate opposition, the other by propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Both continue to ratchet up tensions, magnifying the risk of a direct conflict. A seemingly inevitable clash between Saudi Arabia and Iran will further complicate the situation.
Antalya, Nov. 16, 2015: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented personalized commemorative stamps to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the most recent G20-Turkey Summit, just eight days before a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian SU-24 bomber (source: dpa)Russia has accused Turkey of supporting Daesh, also known as Islamic State, through clandestine purchases of oil from the group. It has even gone so far as to claim that the son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is involved. On the other hand, Turkey is denouncing what it calls the “ethnic cleansing” that it claims Russia is committing through its bombing campaign in the northern areas of Syria, where a significant Sunni Turkmen population is located.Though increasingly at odds with each other, Turkey and Russia are peas in a pod – perhaps fueling their mutual hatred. Apart from being the surviving rumps of former empires, they both have elected strongmen as leaders. President Erdogan has been in power for 12 years and Russian President Vladimir Putin for 15; both have alternated serving as prime minister and president. These are two nations with an appetite for power and a desire to reclaim a leading role in international affairs – and they are jousting with each other. Though increasingly at odds with each other, Turkey and Russia are peas in a pod – perhaps fueling their mutual hatred. Apart from being the surviving rumps of former empires, they both have elected strongmen as leadersBoth countries live in a kind of permanent state of war, threatened internally by ethnic minorities or religious dissidents, such as the Kurds in Turkey or the Central Asian Muslims in Russia. They both suffer from a sizable discrepancy between their external ambitions and their domestic economies, which are fragile and sometimes shaky.That both countries have become embroiled in the Middle Eastern conflict stretching from Syria to Iran bodes ill – particularly when they end up nose to nose, with no buffer between them. As a NATO member, Turkey has followed the West’s official line for a long time and has enjoyed special protection by the United States. Russia, of course, sees the U.S. and NATO as threats.Russia is hitting out against all forms of opposition to the Assad regime, including Islamic radicals in Daesh and the al-Nusra Front, but also other groups, be they ethnic, religious or democratic (source: macpixxel for GIS) zoom. Russia is hitting out against all forms of opposition to the Assad regime, including Islamic radicals in Daesh and the al-Nusra Front, but also other groups, be they ethnic, religious or democratic (source: macpixxel for GIS)
syriaRussia and Turkey are both situated on the edge of Europe, which constitutes for them both a threat and a potential partner. Turkey has been knocking in vain at the door of the European Union for many years. Russia, on the contrary, and even more so since the Ukrainian crisis, has worked to undermine and counter the large internal market that Brussels wants to build.The countries stand in contrast to Europe, both close to and distant from it, but very similar to each other. Turkey has NATO membership in its favor, but Russia has the advantage of being a Christian nation. Now they are competing on two fronts – in relation to the West and in relation to the Middle East – making their rivalry even more dangerous.
What distinguishes Russia and Turkey from the U.S. and Europe is that neither claims to be fighting for anything other than their own medium-term interests. Proof of this can be found in the zone in northern Syria where Turkey has been openly attempting to create a bridgehead under its own control for the past two years. This is the same area in which the Russian plane was shot down by Turkish fighters, and which Mr. Putin is now happily bombing – ruining Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to entrench himself in President Assad’s country.For its part, Russia is protecting its military bases, as well as its access to the Mediterranean and other warm seas. This is a long-term obsession that has already led to five wars between the two powers since the early 19th century. Whoever holds Istanbul controls the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.Russia holds the advantage locally because it has powerful allies in the region – especially Iran and, increasingly, Israel, which is conducting a spectacular reshuffling in its alliances. Turkey remains relatively isolated. Its trump card is the U.S., a powerful protector that is not about to give up on a strategic ally, even if it is being frogmarched into Islamification. The most likely outcome of Russia’s and Turkey’s regional interventions will be more instability and extremism, both at home and abroad. For the Middle East – the arena for this low intensity military sparring – this means more collateral damage. As the rubble piles up, the absence of the U.S. and Europe will become even more conspicuous. (abstract)
The GIS network can provide expertise and insights on geopolitics and geopolitical trends for international corporations, governments and their agencies and other institutions. Our USP is an unbiased and independent approach, which provides clients with forward-looking scenarios of situatuions based on the experience and insights of our experts.

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