December 24, 2015

“Our Enemy's Enemy Is Our Friend”

 

Yuriy Radkovets

 

The last months and weeks of the year have been marked by quite resonant events in the world, Europe and around Ukraine. The vast majority of them in one form or another have been analyzed and estimated by analysts and experts of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies Borysfen Intel, namely:

 

  • the unprecedented decline in world prices for energy carriers (oil) to the level of 11 years ago (an average of 35-36 US dollars per barrel; the last time oil prices fell to this level in July 2004);
  • intensification of actions in Iraq and Syria of the International Military Coalition under US leadership, and of Russia against the terrorist group ISIS (“Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”; since June 29, 2014 — the “Islamic State” /IS/);
  • the IS' terrorist acts against the Russian passenger aircraft Airbus A321 of KogalymAvia over Sinai (31 October, 2015) and Paris (13-14 November, 2015);
  • the Turkish-Russian incident with downing of the Russian bomber Su-24 by Turkish F-16s in the air space of the country (24 November, 2015);
  • sharp aggravation of Russian-Turkish political and economic relations, as a result of the introduction by the Russian side of special economic measures against Turkey and by organizing and conducting its demonstration and provocative activities in connection with the incident;
  • continuation by the European Union and the international community of the “Donbas package” of economic sanctions against Russia till July 31, 2016 (at this, the “Crimean package” of EU sanctions has now been prolonged till June 23, 2016);
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin's signing (on the 16th of December this year) of the Decree on Termination of the Agreement on Free Trade Zone with Ukraine from January 1, 2016, in fact — in response to the fact that from January 1, 2016 will come into force the Agreement on Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU (it was with a threat of food restrictions that the Kremlin was trying to put pressure on Kyiv in order to disrupt signing of the Agreement on Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU).

 

Apart from these and other events, there was another important and in a sense a fairly significant event which already in the nearest future will have an impact on the development of the geopolitical situation in the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, but which, unfortunately, was actually ignored by international experts and analysts.

According to analysts and experts of the Borysfen Intel, it refers to the intensification (expansion and coordination) of the military-political, military and military-technical cooperation between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which requires a balanced assessment and further information support.

On December 17 this year Ministers of Defense of Georgia — Tina Khidasheli, of Turkey — Ismet Yilmaz, of Azerbaijan — Zakir Hasanov at a joint meeting in Istanbul, discussed the issues of regional security and strengthening cooperation among the three countries.

 

Note:

The first trilateral meeting of Defense Ministers of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan was held in August 2014 in Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan), the second — in April 2015 in Tbilisi.

 

On the completion of the trilateral meeting, the Minister of Defense of Georgia Tina Khidasheli stated “...these meetings are important in terms of practical cooperation between the three countries”. In her words, at the meeting in Istanbul were discussed “issues of cooperation and peace in the region”. “The signal sent by the participants of the meeting to the West, is very simple: if we want to have a secure and stable Europe, then we need peace, stability and security in the Black Sea and Caucasus regions. On the way to this, it is no longer efforts of Georgia and Azerbaijan alone, Turkey's active participation is needed too. “In her view, the future of the three countries is associated with NATO.

In Istanbul, she also had a separate meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz. According to T. Hidasheli, “...it was an interesting and important meeting... We focused on the discussion of issues of regional security and cooperation between the two countries”.

 

Note:

Since the end of 1990s, Turkey has been actively assisting Georgia in reforming its armed forces, law enforcement agencies and border police, in training officers and technical equipping military units, as well as in bringing their level of combat capability into accordance with the requirements and standards of NATO. According to the agreements signed earlier, Turkey annually provides military-technical and material assistance to the Armed Forces of Georgia: gratis supplies cars, means of control and communication, navigation equipment, complete sets of uniforms and so on.

 

According to competent sources, T. Hidasheli asked the Turkish side to provide assistance in Georgia's obtaining the possibility to join the “NATO Membership Action Plan” (MAP) at the next NATO summit on 8-9 July 2016 in Warsaw. The Georgian side is convinced that it cannot afford a repetition of the previous unsuccessful attempt at the Bucharest NATO summit in April 2008.

In his turn, among other things, I. Yilmaz offered the Georgian side to intensify cooperation between the two defense intelligence agencies of both countries to exchange intelligence information about the group (objects) of the RF Armed Forces in the Caucasus and Black Sea region, as well as about the orientation and peculiarities of its operational and combat training.

In this context, in the situation of today's aggravation of Russian-Turkish relations, Turkey's special concern is the information of Chief of the General Staff of Georgian Armed Forces V. Kapanadze on the deployment of Russian tactical missile systems (PTRC) “Iskander” in the breakaway South Ossetia (near Tskhinvali) as well as on the progress of reforming and re-grouping of the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri (former Leninakan).

During the trilateral meeting, the Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov drew his colleagues' attention to the importance of expanding cooperation in the field of military education and exercises (training) between the armed forces of the region according to NATO standards. According to him, the cooperation being developed between the three countries is based on the strategic partnership and brotherly relations. Referring to the need to resolve conflicts in the region on the basis of territorial integrity and the rule of international law, Z. Hasanov said: “For a complete peace, we must be strong and to implement some joint projects in the Caucasus and the Black Sea region. At this, we will use the experience of both Turkey and Georgia, and within the framework of NATO's programs. Ensuring security in the region is in the interests of all states».

Within the framework of a separate meeting with Turkey's Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, the sides discussed the signing of the Protocol on the Results of the 8th Azerbaijani-Turkish Military Dialogue at the Highest Level, which took place in December 2013 in Baku. They also discussed issues of expansion of cooperation of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Turkey in the military and military-technical spheres and in the field of military education, intensification of joint exercises (training), as well as a number of questions about the prospects of settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the recent worsening of the situation on the line of demarcation of the sides around Nagornyi Karabakh.

As a result of the trilateral meeting of Defense Ministers of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, they made a joint statement on the importance of the intentions to sign the Declaration (Memorandum) on cooperation between the three countries in the defense sphere as soon as possible.

In their view, the problematic issues and practical measures to be included in this Memorandum will show, first of all, the importance and the feasibility and necessity of organization and conduct of both regional and global dialogues on security and defense policy. In this context, the begun in August 2014 dialogue of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan on security and defense policy in the Caucasus and the Black Sea region is an example for other countries and remains open and ready for its expansion, mainly to the Black Sea region.

Besides, Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov announced the holding of the next (4th) such forum in the nearest future (in spring or summer 2016) in Baku.

 

 

This tripartite event caused Russia's and its loyal ally — Armenia's, quite a nervous, but predictable reaction.

Thus, in early December this year, Russian 102nd Military Base in Armenia (key ally of Russia in the region) was quickly reinforced by combat and transport (MPT) helicopters of the Russian Air Force, namely: the Russian Erebuni Airbase in Armenia received seven modern helicopters, four combat strike Mi-24P and two multi-purpose Mi-8MT.

In the 20 days of December of this year, based on the decision of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Russian Erebuni Airbase were relocated further six helicopters, four combat strike Mi-24P and two multi-purpose Mi-8MT.

The equipment was mainly relocated from Krasnodar Airbase of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces.

 

 

Special attention should be paid to the recent talks of National Defense Ministers of Greece — Panagiotis Kammenos and of Armenia — Seyran Ohanyan, which took place December 16, 2015.

In these negotiations, the Ministers discussed the main directions of further bilateral cooperation: training of special forces, peacekeeping, military-technical cooperation, and military education. The sides touched upon regional issues. S. Ohanyan informed his colleague about the recent aggravation of the situation around the Nagornyi Karabakh conflict.

Following the talks, at a joint briefing with Armenia's Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, Minister of National Defence of Greece Panagiotis Kammenos emphasized the importance of military and military-technical cooperation “between the two fraternal peoples”. “...Besides, the development of military-technical cooperation will also help the economy of both countries”, — the Minister said, quoting the well-known proverb: “If you want peace — prepare for war”, without explaining at the same time — where, with whom and for what reason there is a need to prepare for war.

In his turn, Armenia's Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan said that for the development of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation between the countries there is a necessary legal base.

 

 

Besides, within the framework of the meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers of CIS member states, which took place on December 23 this year in Moscow under the chairmanship of the Russian Federation's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the latter held a series of bilateral meetings with his colleagues — the Ministers of Defence of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia.

We should also pay attention to the fact that in all these post-Soviet Muslim countries there are placed Russian military bases (objects), as well as to the fact that all these countries are Turkic-speaking, with the exception of Tajikistan (Farsi-speaking, although the country has Turkish-speaking schools too) and Armenia. As pointed out in Russia's central media, bilateral meetings were held in the atmosphere of trust and were constructive and informative. The sides discussed topical issues of interaction and cooperation, primarily in the military and military-technical sphere, and approved plans of cooperation of Defense Ministries for 2016.

 

 

So, the Russian-Turkish confrontation is gradually gaining momentum and consistently draws in some countries in the Caucasus and Black Sea region. The latest meeting of Defense Ministers of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan in Istanbul marked the beginning of a new format for cooperation between them in matters of regional security, in fact, clearly directed against Russia and Armenia's “aggressive policy.”

Searching for a new security formatPutin's regime's attempts to “adequately” respond to such events are quite predictable in nature and focused on creation of appropriate counteracting (at the expense of its main partner countries and allies) these plans and activities, and strengthening the grouping of troops (forces) in the Caucasus-Black Sea region.

In such circumstances, it is advisable to Ukraine as soon as possible to consider joining (possibly together with Moldova) the new format of cooperation of Defense Ministers of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, combining the defense and security efforts of the Baltic-Black Sea region countries (by involving Georgia and Turkey) or to initiate re-creation of the GUAM organization with Turkey's joining it.

At the same time remain urgent Borysfen Intel's experts' ideas to accelerate the entry of our country into NATO and the EU due to obtaining a permit at the upcoming NATO summit on 8-9 July 2016 in Warsaw on the accession of Ukraine (along with Georgia and Moldova) to the NATO Membership Action Plan, which could be the first practical step on Ukraine's way into NATO and the European Union.