Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Upcoming Putin-erdogam Meeting - What To Expect, Russia Beefs Up Military On Southwestern Flank As NATO Approaches



What to Expect From the Upcoming Putin-Erdogan Meeting



Next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has confirmed that there will be "no shortage of topics" for discussion. But according to Russian analysts, Moscow's key interest will be to get Ankara to end its support for the terrorists in Syria.



On Tuesday, Peskov confirmed that Putin and Erdogan would meet in St. Petersburg on August 9. The presidential spokesperson added that he could not reveal what exactly would be on the agenda for the talks.

This will be the first meeting for quite a long time, the first after the two leaders have managed to turn the page, so there will be no shortage of topics for discussion; we can say [that] with confidence," Peskov said, speaking to reporters.



Russian and Turkish political experts expect that negotiations will span an array of topics, from politics and economics to regional security. However, according to experts speakingto the independent Russian news and analysis website Svobodnaya Pressa, Turkey's support for terrorists in Syria is expected to be at the top of the agenda.


Russian Turkish relations, the online newspaper recalled, have seen a dramatic turnaround over the last half-year. "As recently as November 2015, when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24, the two countries were on the brink of war. This was followed by a long period of cooling relations and economic warfare, with Turkey carrying the main losses from the latter. Then Erdogan seemed to have delivered the apology required of him."


"Then," the paper noted, "just the other day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked the Russian president for his support of the Turkish authorities during the coup attempt earlier this month. The Kremlin did not confirm the Turkish diplomat's statement. Nevertheless, Turkey is obviously set for a 'pro-Russian U-turn.' This is also evidenced by Turkish Economic Minister Nihat Zeybakchi's statementthat 'political decisions have been made' on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant projects, with the Russian and Turkish leaders' meetings expected to give the projects their 'final momentum' toward being realized." 


Commenting on the very public talk of warming relations, Mikhail Alexandrov, a senior expert at the Center for Military-Political Studies at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, explained that "Erdogan's behavior is only logical.


"That," the expert suggested, "is why Erdogan is looking for closer ties with Russia, to find common ground – to use this rapprochement as an instrument of pressure on the West, to avoid anti-Turkish sanctions by the EU, etc."
In short, much is riding on the Putin-Erdogan meeting, and the corresponding 'comparison of notes' between the two leaders; hopefully, the meeting will play a role in resolving the Syrian crisis, which has not only left the country in ruins, but has helped to destabilize the Middle East and even Europe, which continues to suffer from the consequences of the refugee crisis and radical Islamist terrorism.








Russia has strengthened its southwestern flank as NATO builds up its military presence and Ukraine remains unstable, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday in remarks the United States called contrary to efforts to lower tensions.
Moscow has deployed more air defense systems in the southwest and has also deployed a "self-sufficient" contingent of troops in Crimea, Shoigu told a meeting at the Defence Ministry broadcast on state television.
"Since 2013 ... we have formed four divisions, nine brigades and 22 regiments," he said. "They include two missile brigades armed with Iskander missile complexes, which has allowed to boost fire power to destroy the potential adversary."
Shoigu said "terrorist" groups were also active in the North Caucasus.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington had seen the comments and "if true, we believe that this would appear to run counter to ongoing efforts to stop violence and de-escalate the tensions in eastern Ukraine."
Kirby said the United States expected Moscow to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreement to halt the war in eastern Ukraine and the Vienna document that attempts to provide transparency about military movements in the region.
He noted that the reports indicated the Russian buildup included troops in Crimea, which Moscow seized and later annexed.
"Crimea is and always will remain part of Ukraine. We're not going to allow ... the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun," Kirby said, calling for an "immediate end to the Russian occupation there."












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Turkish President Erdogan Proposes 'Turkish-Iranian-Russian Alliance'


The prophetic significance of this can't be understated. Anyone who follows biblical prophecy closely immediately recognizes the significance of this alliance. Ezekiel 38-39 seems to be approaching:


What to Make of Erdogan's Proposal for a 'Turkish-Iranian-Russian Alliance'


In a telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his willingness to cooperate closely with Iran and Russia "to settle regional crises and restore peace and stability to the region." But what do Russian political analysts make of the Turkish leader's proposals?

As expected, the main topic of discussion between the Iranian and Turkish leaders during Tuesday's phone call was the failed military coup attempt that rocked Ankara on Friday night. Rouhani emphasized that Iran welcomed the return of stability in Turkey, and praised "the great maturity of the Turkish people, who showed during this coup attempt that strong-arm tactics have no place in our region."
But the two leaders also touched on the situation in the Middle East as a whole, and seem to have come to a consensus that there are global forces who are not satisfied with the idea of tranquility in the region. For his part, President Rouhani noted he has no doubt that together with the terrorists, there are also "some superpowers" trying to destabilize things.

Commenting on the conversation, Svobodnaya Pressa columnist Svetlana Gomzikova wrote that "it was not difficult to guess that Rouhani was referring to the United States, which has left quite a mark on the region over the last two decades."


"Perhaps even more surprising was the proposal by the Turkish president to establish a tripartite alliance consisting of Ankara, Tehran and Moscow," she added.

President Erdogan, she recalled, thanked Rouhani for his call and indicated that Turkey is "even more determined to work hand-in-hand with Iran and Russia to resolve regional issues and to strengthen our efforts to return peace and stability to the region."


"What was this?" Gomzikova asked. "Is the Turkish President really ready to cooperate with Iran, with which Ankara has always had serious disagreements, in spite of the US? Or has the vector of Erdogan's interests really changed following recent events? And in general, how can such an alliance change the regional picture in the context of the Syrian crisis?"

For answers, Svobodnaya Pressa turned to Middle East experts Stanislav Tarasov and Vladimir Yurtaev.
Tarasov, the director of the Middle East-Causasus Research Center, indicated that this may very well be a genuine attempt by Erdogan to try and shift his country's foreign policy vector.
The first inkling of that shift was witnessed before the coup, when Ankara initiated moves for a rapid rapprochement with both Israel and Russia.
"After that, a strange series of events occurred," Tarasov noted. "A terror attack struck the international airport in Istanbul. Then, information appeared about a planned meeting between Erdogan and the Russian president, possibly at the G20 forum in China. Then the schedule was changed, and suddenly, there was this incomprehensible and completely inconsistent coup attempt."
There are numerous versions regarding the coup, the analyst noted, including the one being pushed by Ankara that the rebelling officers had ties with Fethullah Gulen, the billionaire religious leader residing in self-imposed exile in the United States.

Until very recently, Tarasov noted, Erdogan's 'neo-Ottoman' policy had amounted to "trying to strengthen Turkey's regional influence 'on the wings of NATO'." That strategy would eventually end up failing spectacularly, with Ankara dragged into the regional conflict in Syria and Iraq, and facing the consequences, including two million refugees flooding into Turkey. "Then there's the Kurdish factor, and the fact that they are now supported in Syria by the Americans. Since then, the Kurds have also risen up in rebellion in southeast Turkey," posing a threat to Turkey's own territorial integrity.

Essentially, the analyst argued, it's likely that Erdogan "realized long ago that he had been trapped as a result of Western policy." As a result, "knowing that the Americans will not hand over Gulen, Erdogan is deliberately, for tactical reasons, provoking the aggravation of Turkish-US relations, in order to play the 'eastern card'."


Now, the analyst noted, with Turkey's allies in the West hitting Erdogan with a barrage of criticism following the wave of repression that followed the coup, "he is beginning to build a kind of political alternative – giving him bargaining power with the West."


The central problem for Moscow, according to Tarasov, is that much of the Western policy establishment genuinely seems to support the fragmentation of the entire Middle East, Turkey included. For Russia, such a nightmare scenario would have disastrous consequences. "We would receive additional hotbeds of tension across our southern borders. In this scenario, Russia would find it impossible not to join a kind of alliance with Erdogan."


Furthermore, the expert pointed out, if Ankara is genuinely considering the foreign policy U-turn that partnership with Moscow and Tehran would imply, "this means that on the Syrian track, Erdogan must recognize the authority of the Assad government, and negotiate in the appropriate format. This opens up the prospect of resolving the crisis in Syria."

Next month Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Putin. Perhaps these issues will be worked out there. And then a certain clarity will appear. Personally, I get the impression that Turkey is genuinely trying to change its geopolitical orientation."

"This so-called 'triangular diplomacy' has been found very productive by Tehran in particular. It was first implemented between Russia, India and China by [former Russian Prime Minister] Yevgeny Primakov [in the 1990s]. I refer to it as the 'Primakov triangle'. And the Iranians, more than any other country in the region, appreciate this approach very much, and use it to effect."

If Ankara is serious, Moscow should seriously consider the offer, not least because it may help resolve the Syrian crisis, and provide Russia with a conditional voice within the NATO bloc, the analyst concluded.
There is a Russian saying, popularized by the legendary film White Sun of the Desert, saying that "the Orient is a delicate matter." Nowhere is this concept more relevant today than in Russia's diplomacy vis-à-vis Erdogan's Turkey.