February 18, 2016

A New Global Geopolitical Problem of in the Middle East

Yuriy Radkovets


The RF Prime Minister D. Medvedev's statement that the Russian Federation and the countries of the West have entered a period of a “new Cold War” was the quintessence of his quite hard and peremptory speech on the 13th of February 2016 at the Munich Security Conference.

In his speech, D. Medvedev recalled V. Putin's “historic Munich speech” of 2007, when he in his usual manner, accused the West, first of all the United States and NATO, that they strained relations with Russia, continuing their policy of NATO and EU's expansion to the East (and already in 2008 Russia in response took to the cynical aggression against Georgia!). According to D. Medvedev, Russia's forecasts of 9 years ago got confirmed. “... NATO's political line towards Russia remains unfriendly and closed. To put it more sharply: we have sunk to the days of a new cold war,” said the Russian Prime Minister.

Moreover, he (in the manner of V. Putin's recent statements) grew hot over the fact that in Western countries, “...they make a film about the nuclear threat from Russia”, and he also said that in Ukraine “...there is a civil war”. And in general in Munich D. Medvedev really wanted to be like the “invincible political macho” V. Putin. He kept criticizing (even on the sidelines of the Conference) the West, some of its countries and organizations (the USA, the UK, Turkey, the EU, NATO), kept teaching everybody and aggressively promoted the Russian “recipes of the European and global security policy”. Earlier (before Munich), he had stated that Western countries saw Russia as a “second-class” country instead of building equal relations with it.

So it was no surprise that D. Medvedev's speech provoked an instant reaction from the leaders of the NATO countries, as well as leading Western politicians and experts.

Among them, the greatest attention should be paid to the point of view of the former Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt. He disagreed with the statement of the Russian Prime Minister D. Medvedev about the fact that Russia and the West “have fallen into the time of a new Cold War”. In his opinion, “... the Cold War is something completely different,” as he said in an interview with Deutsche Welle on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 14: “Yes, we are in a very difficult situation. Russia has turned from a potential partner into a big problem for Europe in the Middle East. But the Cold War was something different.”

At the same time, Carl Bildt shares the West's concern about the possible threat of war between Russia and NATO countries, which arises in the context of the conflict around Syria. He also believes that this concern requires urgent careful study and a serious assessment about how great this risk is. At the same time ex-Premier pointed out, Russia's military participation complicates the Syrian conflict and creates the risk of its expansion. At the same time, he stressed that Russia significantly strengthens the position of the President of Syria B. Assad, whom he considers a key player in the conflict. “But I would not say that Moscow plays a leading role in this conflict, it is not so,” he stressed.

Carl Bildt also said that after the Conference on the Security, the relations between Russia and the West have remained unchanged. Calling a meeting in Munich important, he at the same time pointed out that the decisive role will now be played by the actual actions locally. According to him, the corresponding signal of the Munich Conference on Security Policy is that “... we are not just in a quite complicated situation, but also in a potentially dangerous situation, and the unity of Europe and the West is one of the main preconditions for coping with it.”

Similar views on the results of the Munich Security Conference have other Western politicians and experts. At this, they do not exclude that Russia's participation in a military operation in Syria on the side of B. Assad actually creates both, the risk of a practical extension of its scale and the grounds for Russia's (as well as its ally — Syria's) military confrontation with the individual Member States and partner countries of NATO in the Middle East.

According to experts of the Independent Analytical Centre for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel”, that NATO country today most likely can be Turkey. We should not forget that after the F-16 aircrafts of the Air Force of Turkey shot down the invader of the airspace of the country, Russian bomber Su-24 (November 24, 2015), the geopolitical ambitions of Russia and personally of V. Putin have finally focused exclusively on implementation of the “geo-strategy of revenge” on Turkey (according to V. Putin, he “will not forgive the betrayal”). Besides, in this context, Russia already has a reliable ally — Syria, which also wants to take revenge on Turkey for its support (including the armed one) to Sunni forces opposed to B. Assad.

There is a reason to believe that one of the most likely and the most extensive options for such “geo-strategy of revenge” (in fact, a global vengeance!) can be Russia's attempt to create a Kurdish state which would mean a severe blow to Turkey's national interests.

At the same time, it is quite a large-scale, very complicated, quite long and too expensive project, i.e. it can't be implemented quickly.

Under such circumstances, the Western and Ukrainian experts, including those of the “Borysfen Intel” Analytical Centre, today point out the following features of technologies and tools of a “hybrid war” in the Russian operations against Turkey:

  • unleashing of trade and economic war against Turkey by limiting/banning the import of Turkish food, termination of military-technical cooperation in the military-industrial sector, not concluding new contracts with Turkish construction companies, as well as cancellation of visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey travelling to Russia and banning Russians' organized rest in Turkey;
  • organization and carrying out of provocative and reconnaissance flights by Russian fighter planes from Syria (recently at the Hmeymim Airbasehas arrived the latest Russian aircraft of complex /radio and electronic and opto-electronic intelligence/ reconnaissance Tu-214R), including systematic violation of the airspace of the country — in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the air defense system, as well as to find out/specify the location of military units and other important objects of the Turkish Armed Forces;
  • boosting/pitting/ the Kurdish self-defense forces on provocative actions at the Turkish-Syrian border (including the Syrian Turkmen /in Turkish transcription — Turkomans/ and subversive and terrorist actions of radical Kurdish groups in the territory of Turkey's south-eastern provinces;
  • organizing and conducting firing X-101 cruise missiles from planes of strategic aviation Tu-22M3 and “Kalibr” from Russia's surface ships and submarines from the water area of ​​the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea with demonstration and provocative aim (especially for Turkey, the USA and other NATO countries-participants of the International Antiterrorist Coalition under the leadership of the United States).
  • the Russian Federation's plans and practical activities for the deployment in addition to the Hmeymim Airbase (in the region of Latakia, where today are based 70 combat planes and helicopters), of a new air base near Al-Qamishli (in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey) and also of controls of the Russian aviation and tactical air defense forces (including the recently delivered to Syria S-400 /S-300/)
  • the Russian Federation's plans and practical activities to strengthen the ship's structure of the constant operating group of the Russian Federation's Navy in the Mediterranean Sea (compared to 2014, the number of ships has grown from 10 to 20, and soon the group will be joined by a small rocket ship of the Black Sea Fleet “Zelyonyi Dol” of the project “Buyan-M”, equipped with “Kalibr”);
  • plans to build up the land component of the RF Armed Forces in Syria, in particular the Marine Corps Units, Airborne Troops and Special Task and Military Intelligence Forces;
  • launching of the information war against Turkey and other NATO countries, first of all against the United States, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and the Baltic countries in order to destabilize the political and socio-economic situation in these countries, as well as to divert attention from events around Syria and Ukraine.

That is, in fact, there is every reason to believe that since the end of November 2015, Putin has begun insidiously, and today is conducting a real war against Turkey — “hybrid” by form and “asymmetric” by content, as a “logical” continuation of Russia's “hybrid policy” against this NATO country.

Russia can provoke Turkey for military actions in response to fragmentation of efforts of Turkish military forces in different operational sectors if the RF resorts to financing, supplying weapons and intelligence, as well as provocative incitement:

- in the Syrian direction — Kurdish self-defense groups (according to some sources, the United States believe that the forces of the Kurdish self-defense /YPG — the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish party “Democratic Alliance” — PYD is quite an effective force in opposing formations of the IS /“Islamic State”/);

- in the Iraqi direction — Kurdish groups of “People's Defence Forces” (HPG, the armed wing of the “Kurdistan Workers' Party” /PKK — headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan/, which for many years have been considered by Ankara a terrorist organization and against which the Turkish troops have been constantly taking military operations on the territory of Turkey itself and in neighboring Iraq and Syria).

Russia's tactical goal to ensure that such activities of militants of Kurdish militias (absolutely like Russia's “little green men” in the Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas!) may be aimed at establishment and ongoing support of the escalation of the situation in the Turkish sections of the border, as well as the spread of subversive and terrorist activities in the border provinces of Turkey.

Russia's strategic goal will be based on the geopolitical postulate of both Russia and the Kurds, namely: Turkey's constant aggressive pressure on the Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds will only strengthen their irrepressible desire, where possible, to get separated with further formation of state structures and all the Kurds' (according to different sources, in this region there are 35 to 40 million Kurds) uniting into a single state — one more guaranteed Russian ally in the Middle East region.

As we see from the experience of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, in such “hybrid” wars (wars of the “new generation” or “next generation”) Russia's regular armed forces, as well as its ally's — Syria's ones — should be used only in the final stages — in a consistent implementation of well-planned and well-arranged operation (campaign), which was confirmed during the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian Crimea, but failed to be carried out within the framework of the Russian aggression in the Donbas.

Today, the leading Western and Russian experts are not sure that the European NATO countries are ready to take part in the Russian-Turkish armed conflict on the side of Turkey against a limited ground contingent of Russian troops in Syria, the Syrian government forces, the Iranian special forces units, Kurdish militias and troops of the Lebanese “Hezbollah” which from the air and the Mediterranean Sea are covered with Russian combat aviation and ships of the Permanent Operations Group of the Russian Navy.

Besides, according to Western and Russian analysts and military experts, the USA would not dare to conduct a large-scale ground operation in Syria. Most likely, the USA and other NATO member states-participants of the International Antiterrorist Coalition led by the USA — would use special operations forces and air force, i.e., would resort to what they are doing now. And the announced willingness of Turkey and Saudi Arabia to conduct ground operations in Syria comes up against the need to develop a strategy to combat terrorist groups of the IS, as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said. At the same time, according to the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, sending Saudi Arabia's troops to Syria to fight the “Islamic State” is not part of the strategy of the International Coalition led by the USA.

The vast majority of Western and Russian experts believes that the provocations on the Turkish-Syrian border are likely, sabotage and terrorist acts on both sides of the border are possible, and attempts on both sides in the form of downing an airplane or drowning a ship are also quite possible. But a large-scale war between Russia and Turkey in Syria is excluded, as it could lead to disastrous consequences, not only for Russia and Turkey (NATO/USA), but for the entire Middle East region in the context of global confrontation of Sunnis and Shiites. That is, a hypothetical war between Russia and Turkey is a geostrategic adventure.


So, the Prime Minister of Russia D. Medvedev's statement at the Munich Security Conference, that the Russian Federation and Western countries have already plunged into a period of a “new cold war”, suggests that V. Putin's regime retains the course of “hybrid” confrontation with Europe, NATO/USA, and in general with the West and the rest of the world.

As Russia, in the apt words of the former Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, “... has turned from a potential partner into a big problem for Europe in the Middle East,” the statements of the majority of leading Western politicians and military experts speak not without worries about possible risks of extension of the Syrian conflict and a threat of war between Russia and NATO countries, first of all — Turkey, for which there are real and potential causes.

In fact, now there is reason to believe that at the end of November 2015 V. Putin insidiously began and today is secretly leading a full war against Turkey — “hybrid” by the form and “asymmetrical” by the content, where tactically a major role belongs to the Kurdish armed groups and self-defence, and the strategic goal is to create a Kurdish state that will be a serious blow to Turkey's national interests.

The vast majority of both Western and Russian experts believes that a large-scale war between Russia and Turkey in the context of the conflict around Syria is a geostrategic adventure, which could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for Russia and Turkey, but also for the entire Middle East region against the background of the International Anti-Terrorist Operation in Syria and Iraq against the IS and the global confrontation of Sunnis and Shiites.