2018-04-25

Propaganda, slogans, prayers: how Erdogan intends to win the super-elections



Election race was set to begin in Turkey. A week ago, Turkish president confirmed the rumours about the early elections, which he himself and his ruling Justice and Development Party had been denying for several months. The presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 24, 2018 can rightfully be considered epochal: after the constitutional referendum held in April 2017, the country should transit to a super-presidential form of government this summer, and Erdogan will have the opportunity to rule Turkey for at least another 10 years, either further splitting Turkish society or delivering long-sought stability. The stakes are high for the president himself and his party, both intend to win elections by all means.

Formally, as a reason for the decision to postpone elections from November 3, 2019 to June 24, 2018 the Turkish authorities name political instability in the region, especially in the neighbouring Syria. In addition, according to statements of representatives of the ruling party, early elections would reduce uncertainty that is detrimental to the investment climate in Turkey, and the very transfer of elections to an earlier date would enable parties to spend less on populist gestures, so common in Turkey. Finally, Erdogan talked about the need to speed up the redrawing of the country's bureaucracy, liquidate the post of prime minister and transfer all the reins of the executive power into hands of the head of state.

On the informal level, some say that decision to call early elections was dictated not so much to reduce the negative consequences for economy during the critical period of transition, but rather out of fears of Erdogan about his own chances of winning and consolidating power. Erdogan himself isn’t not threatened to re-occupy the presidency for the next 10 years, the president remains one of the country's most popular politicians in the last 90 years of the republic's existence. It is the fate of his party that causes concerns: with a real political alternative on the horizon, capable of stealing from Erdogan's party its target electorate - conservative and nationalist Turks, electoral race promises to be tough.

A Good Party (İyi Parti), founded in October 2017 by a number of former prominent members of the National Movement Party (MHP) headed by the charismatic Meral Akşener, immediately attracted attention of the conservative sections of Turkish society, who have been long somehow dissatisfied with the current policy of the ruling Justice and Development party. Not everyone likes Erdogan's political ambitions and how he suppresses dissent voices even within his own party. The successful image of the Good Party also affects the very good results of polls: leader of the party Akşener, who has already also announced her candidacy in the presidential race, said to have claims on up to 40% of the votes in the first round, while the party itself has a chance of 20% of the votes of Turkish voters.

Like Turkey’s main opposition People's Republican Party (CHP), the Good Party, in case of victory, promises to return Turkey to the parliamentary form of government, as the founder of the republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk bequeathed. This can be regarded as a direct challenge to Erdogan's plans and ambitions, so he wants to put pressure on his rivals by transferring the elections to the nearest date because in such scenario a short period of preparation would not allow the Good Party to consolidate its organizational resources on the ground before the elections.

The society has accumulated fatigue from unbalanced policy of the Turkish authorities led by Erdogan. Particularly unhappy is the absence of any thoughtful and stable foreign policy. Obviously, Turkey is moving now on the international arena, especially in the Syrian issue, according to the political conjuncture, cooperating at times with Russia, at times with the US. Naturally, Turkish society is getting more confused. However, the most important issue for Turks is traditionally the situation in the national economy. Since January, the national currency of the country has lost about 7% of its value against the US dollar, unemployment remains high at 10-12%, higher rates among young people and recent graduates. Finally, as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development expects, Turkey's economic growth will decline in 2018 from 7.4% to 4.2%.

It is worth saying that the pressure of economic and political problems on the Turkish authorities is pushing it towards a more aggressive election campaign. Erdogan and his party, based on their experience of past campaigns, are ready to use several scenarios.

First, the authorities will try to foment conflict with the West, as was done during last year's referendum campaign. To consolidate the electorate around a supposedly strong leader, Turkish authorities this year may risk escalating the conflict around a number of islands in the Aegean Sea with Greece. In 1996, such a conflict nearly led to a military conflict between Athens and Ankara, but now this unresolved conflict would be an ideal issue for the Turkish authorities wishing to create an environment among the voters that the entire Western world has taken up arms against Turkey: after all, Greece is a member of the EU and has historically close ties with the West.

As it was in the past elections, Turkish authorities will use religious propaganda as well. It is worth mentioning that from May 15 to June 14 in Turkey, the majority of the population will fast during the holy month of Ramadan, from June 15 begins the Ramazan Bayrami holiday. Throughout the month, official religious figures of the state will call upon TV viewers, radio listeners and mosque goers in a veiled form to cast their vote to the ruling party and its leader Erdogan "who has done so much for the Muslims of Turkey and the world."

All these steps will be supported by mass propaganda in the media, 90% of which are controlled by people more or less loyal to the president. The opposition will not have a sufficient platform for broadcasting: as noted by independent observers, the share of air time allocation in favour of the ruling party traditionally surpasses shares allocated to other parties. Even now one can see with unaided eyes who major TV channels show daily in their broadcast…

Looking from a broader perspective, it is clear that Turkey’s problem is not whether there is a democracy or rather a democratic process. There is one: people are included in the electoral process and major obstacles like discrimination based on ideological or religious views or ethnic background are long gone. The major problem of today’s Turkey is quality of democratic process with competing parties enjoying equal and just share of opportunities to win votes and deliver their programs and with the government officials serving not the party they hail from, but the Turkish nation, securing free and transparent process of elections.

2018-04-23

Eurasian vector in Russian-Turkish relations



With increased violence and instability in the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring Turkish foreign policy has been a hot topic in the international media and forums. In the last two years Turkey’s role in regional politics has been increasingly scrutinized in association with activity of yet another rising power. Both Russia and Turkey, whose elites are sharing so many similarities in worldview and approaches to the outside world, act united in their resolution to put their bilateral relations on strategically coherent and rigid foundation.

Conditions for deeper cooperation are right as never before. Both powers are enjoying ambivalent relations with Western partners. Besides, Turkey and Russian, since the end of Cold war, have been trying to diversify their relations and move away from cumbersome dependence on Europe. Against this background the concept of Eurasianism has been long viewed as a long-sough ideational platform that can further cement Russian-Turkish ties and create effective drive for civilizational alliance that would resist Western pressure.

After the end of bipolar global confrontation in the early 1990s Turkey and Russia discovered in each other perspective partners in many areas, especially trade, tourism, construction and energy projects. But it is only in the late 2000s with establishment of the High-Level Cooperation Council in May 2010 Ankara and Moscow could finally overcome residual mistrust and started approaching each other in more strategic issues expanding their experience on Eurasian political space.

Statements by Turkish and Russian officials may serve as a prove that both sides consider expanding bilateral ties into multilateral cooperation focused on Eurasian integration projects. In November 2013, during the bilateral High-Leven Cooperation Council meeting Turkish Prime-Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed[1] an idea of Turkey entering the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and free trade agreements with the Eurasian countries as a way to rebalance unsuccessful membership talks with EU. Signals were later repeatedly sent even after the S-24 jet crisis. In August 2017, after having gain no progress over renewals of terms with the European Customs Union Turkish officials once again pointed[2] at possibility of Turkey seeking alternatives in Eurasian integration projects like the Eurasian Customs Union that unites markets of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

Even though, one may speculate that many statements made by Turkish officials in their essence remain declaration, there are instances where Turkish government undertake practical steps in boosting closer economic ties with Eurasian countries. Since 2008 Turkey has been implementing[3] a number of projects, mainly infrastructural like Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway[4], that aim to prepare integration of Turkish economy in trade projects with China and Central Asian republics within the framework of One Belt One Road Initiative. Meanwhile Moscow tends to make statements that both criticize Western political dominance[5] while singling out Turkey as a non-Western power that would be suitable for cooperation and participation in allegedly Russian-led initiatives[6].

Trend to push bilateral relations into more ideologically refined, Eurasianist framework may have historical rationale. Both Turkey and Russia share experience of imperial past and related longing for a glorious old times. After the collapse of their perspective imperial polities, political process of Russia and Turkey has been defined by efforts of national elites to modernize a nation and carry out reforms that would enable them to compete with European and later Western powers on equal terms. Catch-up modernization projects, though with different trajectories, in Russia and Turkey may have contributed to convergence between Moscow and Ankara during the 20th century, even despite the fierce ideological confrontation.

Turkey and Soviet Union in the 1920s were considering each other perfect partners to overcome dangerous isolation of their newly established political regimes by European power and USA. Rapallo[7] and Sevres[8] syndrome played later a decisive role in attempts of Ankara to seek cooperation and solidarity of Moscow when its own ties with America soured. With waning hostility of the Cold war, Turkey and Soviet Union managed to forge a very sophisticated goods-for-gas agreement in 1984 marking a firm beginning of deeper economic cooperation[9].

But it is not only common historical legacy and similar path of modernization, but also common challenges of today that push Turkey and Russia towards each other. The geopolitical shifts of the post-Cold war order put tremendous pressure on security and foreign policy of both powers. With stabilization of national economies in Russia and Turkey in later 1990s both endeavored to expand their footprint in their close geographical neighbourhood, in regions where historical and cultural legacy would facilitate their penetration. Activism of the 2000s of these new rising powers made some political circles believe that old world is waning under the rising influence of new, Eurasian powers like Russia, Turkey, China and others.

A further force that brought Turkey and Russia together was expansion of democratic freedoms in both countries after 1990s, decline of the democratization efforts and eventual drift toward authoritarianism in the 2010s. Today, political regimes in Turkey[10] and Russia[11] can be described as hybrid regimes with competitive authoritarian features with ostensibly functioning democratic institutions with ruling party or leaders exerting pressure on opposition and control via informal channels but without sliding into an outright authoritarianism that would be neither internationally acceptable nor productive in conditions where national economies depend on the outside world.

Problems with democratic process, rule of law, human rights and freedoms has been long drawing criticism from Europe and United States. Underlying logic behind Western attempts to anchor democratic rule in Turkey and Russia may be expressed by desire to see more predictable, cooperative and ideologically friendly regimes that would further contribute to promotion of these norms and values in their adjacent regions: Middle East, Central Asia, Caucasus, Eastern Europe. On the other hand, Western attempts to secure democratic achievements of the previous years and to support civil society are regarded by ruling political elites today as direct intrusion in domestic affairs[12], yet another foreign policy challenge that unites Turkey and Russia.

Within these conditions, circles led in Russia by Alexander Dugin[13] and by Doğu Perinçek[14] in Turkey while being bestowed by benevolence of the rulers eager to talk about a common idea that would unite Russian and Turkish activism for the sake of their better and firmer resistance to the Western attempts to subdue these nations. Roots of the Eurasian ideology go back to the early 20th century when Russian intellectuals tried to redefine roots of state crisis of the Russian Empire and to assess results of the Bolshevik revolution that gave rise to the new geopolitical colossus, Soviet Union. Eurasianists came to a conclusion that Russia represents not a nation, but a civilization that unites all local nations in the vast territories of Eurasia. In its essence this ideology was a reformulated tradition of Russian Slavic nationalism.

Today (Neo)-Eurasianism tends to describe efforts of states to develop an indigenous framework of cooperation, usually as an alternative to the Western capitalist dominance. Russian and Turkish official circles tend to pay credit Eurasianism as a practical ideological framework for mutual cooperation for several crucial reasons. First of all, Eurasianists by saying that all version of national democracies have right to existence[15], in essence, emphasize idea of sovereignty and vehemently reject interference into domestic affairs. Besides, Eurasianists’ focus on existing alternatives to the Western values and norms of international conduct add legitimacy to Russian and Turkish criticism of Western partners and on a rhetorical level improve their negotiating positions in talks over terms of dialogue with the West.

But looking into real world manifestation of the Eurasianist narrative reveals serious gaps. Tendency to ascribe Eurasianism a driving force behind rapprochement seems to be a myth or alternatively doesn’t seem to be a reliable driving force of bilateral ties that are loaded with hidden competition[16] in the Central Asia, Black Sea, Caucasus and Syria. Moreover, advocates of Eurasianism in Turkey and Russia understand different things under this term[17]: for Russian Eurasianists that means ideology that today is called to legitimize Russian presence in its neighborhood whereas for Turkish Eurasianists it tends to mean a foreign policy strategy that is focused on developing effective tools against Western pressure. Finally, Eurasian rhetoric serves the purpose to mask transactional and situational character of bilateral relations, evidenced by the S-400 deal and cooperation in Syria.

While Russian and Turkish officials show desire to talk about underlying ideological foundation of the rapprochement it nevertheless evident that both countries are more inclined to advance ties with Western world. Volume of trade between Turkey and European Union in 2016 was at the level of USD 145 billion[18], while its Russian-Turkish trade hit a mark of USD 21,6 billion in 2017[19]. Unbalanced trade structure (with Russian energy exports enjoying better positions) and economic relations force Turkey and Russia talk about bilateral ties in more abstract terms by describing their relations as part of bigger Eurasian project. Moreover, in cultural terms population of the both states feel more affiliated with Europe rather than with each other. Both Russia and Turkey have each large community in European countries.

Attempts of Russia and Turkey to dress bilateral relations in more rigid ideational framework are understandable. Still, Turkey and Russia can’t build future of their relations on anti-Western narrative. Paradoxically, it is their common movement towards European community that may advance cooperation: historical process of entering the European civilization established better rules of diplomatic conduct while providing guarantees from braking the laws by the other side. Within this movement each of the both powers feels more secure knowing that all they share common ideas and values like rule of law, democracy and human rights. These commonalities may  further increase tolerance to inter-dependence and compromise in critical areas and help Turkey and Russia to overcome rather than ignore their historical legacy of mistrust.


[1] Bizi Şangay’a alın da şu AB’den kurtulalım, Akşam, November 23, 2013.
[2] Economy Minister: Turkey eyes Eurasian Customs Union, Daily Sabah, August 18, 2017.
[3] Bir Kuşak Bir Yol Girişimi Çerçevesinde Türkiye-Çin İlişkileri, Ankara Kriz ve Siyset Araştırmaları Merkezi, July 15, 2017.
[4] Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Line Officially Launched, Radio Free Europe, October 30, 2017.
[5] Official twitter-account of the Embassy of Russia in South Africa, March 16, 2018.
[6] Comment by the Information and Press Department on the sixth meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 13, 2018.
[7] Treaty of Rapallo, Encyclopædia Britannica, September 24, 2015.
[8] Forget Sykes-Picot. It’s the Treaty of Sèvres That Explains the Modern Middle East, Foreign Policy, August 10, 2015.
[9] Turkey takes a tentative step toward Soviet Union by signing trade agreement, The Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 1984.
[10] Esen, B., & Gumuscu, S. (2016). Rising competitive authoritarianism in Turkey. Third World Quarterly, 37(9), 1581-1606.
[11] Shevtsova, L. F., & Eckert, M. H. (2001). Russia's hybrid regime. Journal of Democracy, 12(4), 65-70.
[12] The Color Revolutions, Foreign Affairs, January/February, 2013.
[13] The One Russian Linking Putin, Erdogan and Trump, Bloomberg, February 3, 2017.
[14] Perinçek, D. (1996). Avrasya seçeneği: Türkiye için bağımsız dış politika. Kaynak Yayınları, 1996.
[15] Averre, D. (2007). " Sovereign Democracy" and Russia's relations with the European Union. Demokratizatsiya, 15(2), 173.
[16] Svarin, D. (2015). Towards a Eurasian axis? Russia and Turkey between cooperation and competition. Global Affairs, 1(4-5), 381-398.
[17] Ergenekoncular ve Avrasyacılık, Anlayış Dergisi.
[18] EU Trade with Turkey, European Commission.
[19] Comment by the Information and Press Department on the sixth meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 13, 2018.



2018-04-19

Turkey’s value for Russia is in her deep ties with the West


Recent summits between Turkey and Russia in Ankara on April 3-4 once again stirred debates in Western media over the course Turkey is currently taking in its foreign policy engagement in broader region. Deepening cooperation in energy sector with two mega projects like Turkish Stream and Akkuyu NPP on the way and the S-400 deal may serve as an indication that Turkey is willing to recalibrate its relations with the West in favour of more dialogue with Russia who is increasingly accused of devising plans to break transatlantic solidarity and luring Turkey into challenging its own ties with West and Europe. The truth is that Turkey’s value for Russian diplomacy is in its status as an intrinsic part of the Western world.

To understand how Russia has been approached Turkey, we should look at Turkey from the point of view of Russian interests. Historically, on multiple occasions Turkey and Soviet Union used bilateral ties to balance pressures of European powers and to increase its own negotiating positions vis-à-vis Europe. Wherein status of each as a legitimate participant of all discussions over European affairs was at the very foundation of bilateral dialogue between Moscow and Ankara.

Today, Russia views Turkey as well embedded in international and Western regimes where Turkey respects international norms of diplomatic conduct. Russia seeks to legitimize its foreign policy initiatives in the region through international law, its relations and cooperation with Turkey serve to reinforce this approach: Russia not only was eager to devise international declarations like Moscow document aimed at stabilization in Syria with Turkey, it also tried to secure Syrian state’s status as a sovereign entity through cooperation with Turkey and Iran. Another demonstration of interrelation between increasing cooperation between Russia and Turkey is that latter’s status as legitimate international player may be found in Moscow’s official stance on Turkish military operation “Olive Branch”: giving a green light to a move enable Russia to get concessions from Turkey on other fronts, while Russian diplomats were sure that operation wouldn’t end up with territorial annexation.

Moreover, it is Turkey’s NATO membership that may encourage Russia to consider cooperation in critical political and security matters. In times when East European states ring the bell and call upon NATO to face Russian military threats, Russia finds perfect avenue for controlling the weather inside the alliance through Turkey. Bilateral dialogue over S-400 purchase and ensuing debates over threats Russia may pose to NATO security mechanisms serves to create favourable and cooperative political environment. Russia has been approaching Turkey with S-400 precisely because of Ankara’s central role in security arrangements of NATO.

Turkey’s connections to the European Union and broader relations with Europe contribute to Russian efforts to engage Turkey as well. Once accepted as a legitimate partner in resolving regional issues, such as refugee crisis, Turkey offers through its status a good diplomatic channel to legitimize Russia’s own projects too. Take, for example, political settlement in Syria, here we can clearly see that Russian efforts to channel the armed conflict into political contestation are supported by Turkish participation in these initiatives. Owing to its own ties and agreements with the EU Turkey may potentially bring European partners on the board contributing to stabilization of Syria, consolidation of Syrian state and to its economic reconstruction that would provide relief for refugees in Europe.

Economic ties of Turkey with Western world may play no less important role in rapprochement between Russian and Turkey. Russia is exploring ways to get its energy resources on European markets and Turkish mediation as an energy hub becomes a crucial element of such efforts. In addition, stable and developing Turkish economy mean stable revenues from energy exports for the Russian budget, constrained by Western imposed economic restrictive measures. On other hand, Turkish dynamic economy attracts European investments and makes it a perfect destination point for Russian capital. Creation of joint ventures in Turkey with Western companies may contribute to technology and knowledge transfer into Russian economy under increasing regime of Western sanctions.

Finally, for years Turkey has been investing tremendous efforts to attract foreign visitors as part of broader policy to diversify sources of the foreign currency, Ankara cherishes its status as a safe tourist destination among Westerners, including more 6 million Russian tourists expected to come this year. This status contributes to developing ties between Turkey and Russia as well, as the latter carefully ties to direct touristic torrents into more safe countries.

Against this background, assumptions that Russia is trying to persuade Turkey to abandon the West seem a little too exaggerated. An isolated Turkey, who enjoys no functional relations with the West is both a dangerous asset to handle and a pernicious player to deal with over regional issues where Russian interest are at stake. Embeddedness of Turkey in the formal Western political arrangements contributes to stable relations with Russia as well. While Russia values Turkish leadership’s will to diversify foreign policy alternatives, Turkey’s value as a reliable partner stems from its status as a legitimate player in international politics with diverse ties to Western states.

Retired Russian General Buzhinsky: Central Incirlik on July 15; Putin helped Erdogan during coup attempt


Between 1984-1986, retired Russian General Evgeny Buzhinsky, who served in the Russian embassy in Ankara, said that on the night of the 15 July coup attempt Russian President Vladimir Putin helped President Tayyip Erdogan. Gen.Buzhinsky, responding to claims that the philosopher Aleksandr Dugin conveyed his knowledge of the coup attempt to Ankara, said, "I can say that Dugin can say what he wants, but I do not think it was like he says. It was Russian intelligence who conveyed information to their Turkish counterparts."

- You attended the last Moscow Security Conference Week. What analysis were done during 2 days in regards to Ankara?

We were talking about economic, political, very good relations in every sense. Especially Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant is an important step in relations. Militaryly, if the delivery of the S-400 air defense systems is completed, which I'm not sure is possible, it will be a very important step.

- Why are you not sure?

About 10 years ago, I spoke with the US Deputy Defense Secretary. That conversation taught me a lot. Ankara wanted to buy a helicopter. We had a K-50 attack helicopter on the one hand, and the Augusta Bell model helicopter on the other. Ours was better in every respect but Turkey eventually took the helicopter from the Americans. I spoke with the US Deputy Minister about the issue and he said: "Turkey is a NATO member, you can sell them guns, even tanks. But you can never sell military aircraft, war ships, attack helicopters and air defense systems." For this reason, I can guess, we can talk about American pressure on the Turkish government.

- Rouhani and Putin visited Turkey. How do you think meetings went?

When you look at the way that President Erdogan addresses guest leaders, you see that Iran wants to underline sincere relations with Russia. Obviously Turkey-Iran relations does not interest me very much. But on Syria, the level of cooperation between the three countries is quite satisfactory.

- How did the officials in Washington feel when they saw the sincere atmosphere of the three leaders' meeting in Ankara?

I do not think they're happy at all. A lot of startling feeling is seen on the American side. But they are to blame, they are themselves responsible. You know the reason for all these disagreements were reason to threaten the President Erdogan.

- You think the coup attempt was organized by Washington ... ?

I can not say I have a lot of knowledge about this, but I trust the information from the Turkish government. And the center of the coup was the Incirlik Base, American air base.

- After the Summit here, in the Russian media "Turkey is our first friendly" comments were made. Is it really?

Turkey and the Balkans throughout the years, we have Opponents in the Black Sea. Fighting bile. 2. After the Second World War took place in western Turkey on the block. Closer view let's history, Syria, Turkey was not friendly at the beginning of our Civil War. You've even dropped your orgasm. But after the BBC correspondent, our leaders found a way to conduct the relationship. I do not know the exact information, but I hear President Putin Erdogan's coup initiative helped the night. That is why he is thankful to Putin.

- Philosopher Aleksander Dugin says that he sent intelligence on the upcoming coup to Ankara ...

Dugin can tell what he wants, I do not think he did so. Russian intelligence has forwarded it to Turkish counterparts.

- The Russian jet was downed, the Russian envoy Karlov was assassinated. Lots of up and downs. But bilateral relationships, nevertheless, go on. How is it possible?

Such accidents can always happen. Considering there is a war in the middle of all this. After the fall of the jet, had President Erdogan immediately apologized, relations were not severed. It was first statements of the Turkish officials that  angered Putin. In Moscow, they got believing that Turks "knowingly shot down the jet". But in Karlov's case Ankara's reaction was very fast and correct. Later after the tragedy they made very right step to give Karlov's name to a street with our embassy in Ankara. All of this has improved our relationships.

- Most Americans I talked to say, "Russia is so flexible only to attract a NATO member country to their side." What can you say?

I do not think so. Look, NATO countries are not all the same. Some have stronger national stances. Turkey is the best example. It is a NATO member but not an ally subordinate to the United States. Turkey is a big country, the economy is strong, possesses over strategic territory ... I think the biggest goal of Russia is to build robust and reliable relationship. Economically and politically. I'm not so sure about the military wing. Our leaders know well that it is not possible to pull out Turkey from NATO.

- The relationship of Russia and Turkey are not without problems in the Syrian issue. What are the common points and the difficult points in bilateral ties?

When you look at the statements made after the summit in Turkey, you will see that Syria's territorial integrity is fundamental in common. Compared with a situation 5 years ago in Turkey when they used to say "Assad must go", we see  a change in this position. Another important issue is the Kurds. I worked in Ankara, I know how the Turks think. Kurds in Syria, establishing their own territory, is a nightmare for Turkey. Turkey will never allow it to happen. Erdogan is ready to go until the end in this issue without looking at what NATO, US or anybody says. Moscow's position on the Kurds is very clever. What did Putin say? "Kurds can define their own fate like every people, but they have to do it in a unified Syrian state." Kurds say to Russia, "Why do not you support us?" My answer is: You have chosen your side. Please go now and talk to Washington. We do not want to jeopardize our relations with Turkey.

- Russia also had connections with YPG. Did Putin make a choice in Afrin issue? Because YPG thinks now that Russia is betraying ...

(Laughing!) Why do they feel like we betrayed them? No. They chose it. If they stayed with Russia, Putin'd called upon them saying: "behave, wait, do not tease Turkey, don't try to partition Syria".

- So I would like to ask if YPG completely lost Russia now?

No. Because they are not that stupid. Afrin is not the only land they have on this planet. Life goes on. Sooner or later they will find a way to cooperate with Russia. They are to adopt a low profile for a while and will not go after what they can not do. Even Americans are not stupid enough to fight with Turkey because of them.

- Iran allegedly wanted Turkey to give the Afrin to regime. Could it be true?

I do not think that there is a plan of Turkey for occupation of Syrian territory. When the civil war is over I think that Erdogan will reach a conclusion in context of united Syria.

- Trump said, "We will withdraw from Syria." Then he gave up withdrawing shortly after. What are you trying to do?

There is a lot of confusion in Washington, if the anti-Russian hysteria is to put an edge. There's no such thing as Trump and his cabine. The president says something, the next day the foreign affairs denies it. He writes something on Twitter, then he says the opposite. It's like a madhouse.

- Trump called for money from the Saudis, invited French soldiers to Manbij. Does the president want to share the cost of the Syrian war? Do they bluff when they say "we will withdraw"?

Trump is very practical as a business person. He assessed the situation and saw that it was not possible for the United States to succeed in Syria anymore. They will not be able to fulfill any goals. Trump thinks it would be wise to say, "We finished the ISIS, we were successful, we are taking it now". If he pulls the troops, I think Putin calls Trump and congratulates him.

Full article in Turkish: http://t24.com.tr/haber/emekli-rus-general-buzhinsky-15-temmuzun-merkezi-incirlikti-putin-darbe-girisiminde-erdogana-yardimci-oldu,601602

2018-04-16

Turkish general: "Turkey worries that the final document of the tripartite PYD / PKK meeting is not mentioned"


Military alliance between U.S. and Kurdish-led SDF forces against IS has been a primary factor behind Russian efforts to lure the Kurds into the political dialogue with Assad by promising concessions in the issue of autonomy reserved for the ethnic minority in the predominantly Arab country. Today, extension of cooperation between Washington and Syrian Kurds in matters beyond fight against IS in the eastern Syria not only poses a serious threat to Russian plans and it may as well ultimately lead to confrontation between Russian and Iranian interests in near future.

APA interview with the former head of the Directorate of Intelligence of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Colonel-General Ismail Hakky Pekin.

- We want you to comment on the results of the trilateral meeting between Turkey, Russia and Iran held in Ankara on April 4.

- The main message of this summit was sent to Western countries: Turkey, Russia and Iran declared to the West, in particular the United States, that they will cooperate in the issues of the region. Three countries said that they "will not allow the West to develop everything at will". We intend to continue the Astana cooperation. Iran and Russia agreed on some points for the completion of the ringing operation. Western countries have seen that the Syrian problem without President Assad can not be solved. Now after the US, France is trying to intervene in regional processes. At the new stage, the main place on the agenda will be the preparation of the Constitution of Syria. It seems to me that the interests of the US and Turkey will not be seriously discussed in the matter of Manbage. The problem will be solved diplomatically. Until now, we have seen how the interests of large states have collided in parts of Turkey. For example, in Raccoon, the military of the United States and Turkey experienced a serious confrontation. I do not think that in the future such things will take place. Turkey is concerned that the final document of the tripartite meeting of PYD / PKK is not mentioned.

 - How will the problem be solved on the eastern coast of the Euphrates?

  - Western countries, led by the United States, provided the bulk of weapons assistance to a terrorist organization in the region. To solve the PYD / PKK problem on the eastern coast of the Euphrates, Turkey's direct cooperation with Damascus is necessary. We must lose weight from the shoulders: the overwhelming majority of the population there is Arab, the regime of Damascus has a great influence on them. The surest way to solve the problem of the terrorist organization PYD / PKK on the eastern coast of the Euphrates, using the support of local Arab tribes in the region. Kurds make up 4-5% of the population, how can they control about 30% of the Syrian lands? Neither Damascus nor the local Arab tribes will allow this. We also need to cooperate with them. Everyone saw that at this stage no problem in Syria will be solved without Assad, Turkey also has to see it. It's hard to think that everything will be as in the past in Syria, but Turkey must first think about its own interests and not allow the strengthening of the terrorist organization PYD in Syria.

"And the question of Idlib?" In your opinion, did Turkey take on the obligation to Idlib for Russia in connection with the operation in Africa?

- According to the Astana agreement, Idlib was declared "a region where clashes do not occur". Control inside the city is carried out by Turkey, outside of it by Russia. Now it is considered the main region of Syria. Because the terrorists who fled from many regions concentrated in Idlib. Half of the nearly 30 thousand people are Chechens, Russia wants their complete cleansing. Some of the terrorist groups are under the control of Saudi Arabia, the other part - under the control of the British intelligence organization Mİ-6, there are groups that control Turkey. If there is chaos in Idlib, there will be a threat of an influx to Turkey of 2 million people. Therefore, Turkey has to act very cautiously. Today Turkey establishes the 9th control point there. I repeat: Idlib is for Turkey the most vulnerable and problematic region. Russia will not conduct a joint military operation there with Syria, because everything is mixed up. Turkey, first of all, cooperating with Russia, must clear Idlib from terrorists. In this process, Turkish intelligence will be entrusted with many tasks. I must say that we came to a very vulnerable period in the solution of the Syrian problem. Liberation of Idlib from terrorists will add to the 3.5 million refugees to Turkey an additional 2 million people.

Translation of Russian article