February, 2016 Russia

European Peninsula

John Mauldin , CONTRIBUTOR
GUEST POST WRITTEN BY George Friedman

As an expert in intelligence and international geopolitics, George Friedman is firmly focused on what he knows best—the future.
Many people think of maps in terms of their basic purpose: showing a country’s geography and topography. But maps can speak to all dimensions—political, military, and economic.


A History of Antagonism
By Jeffrey Mankoff 

Relations between Turkey and Russia have been fraught ever since the Turkish air force downed a Russian bomber that briefly violated its air space in November. But the tensions between the two countries had been escalating for months before that, first over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and then over Syria. As a result, in the span of two years, the two countries have largely undone the entente they had built over the past 15.

Guardian Editorial
The Syrian war has lasted so long and diplomacy has proved so ineffective that the hope that it could end or at least be brought under some kind of control is hard to sustain. Yet the cessation of hostilities agreed by nearly all of the warring parties seemed to be holding this weekend. Most observers give it a chance, not because of some sudden change of heart on anybody’s part – nearly all those concerned still hate each other – but because it is arguably in the interests of the key players to pursue their objectives in the future in a different way.

Ömer Taşpınar
The real problem for the next American administration will not only be Russian hegemony over Syria but Turkey's propensity to challenge this domination by trying to get NATO involved in a conflict with Moscow.

 

 


Author Mustafa al-Haj
DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian regime’s advancement in Daraa, Aleppo and rural Latakia, among other areas, confirms the Russian intervention in Syria has changed the balance of power in favor of the regime. As opposition forces have failed to deter the regime’s attacks in Daraa province, hopes are hanging on a cease-fire truce announced following a US-Russian agreement approved Feb. 23 by the Syrian regime. The truce, which is to be implemented starting Feb. 27, could be a prelude to ending the military conflict and launching a political solution that would solve the Syrians’ crisis, observers say.

 

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

President Vladimir Putin this week mounted a rescue operation to unsnarl his blueprint for a solution of the Syrian crisis from the blockage placed in its path by none other than Bashar Assad. The Syrian ruler won’t hear of Moscow’s proposals for ending the war, or even the cessation of hostilities approved last week in Munich by the 17-member Syria Support Group.


By Paul Craig Roberts

"Information Clearing House" - This morning I was stuck in front of a Fox “News” broadcast for a short period and then with a NPR news program. It was enough to convince me that Nazi propaganda during Hitler’s Third Reich was very mild compared to the constant stream of dangerous lies that are pumped out constantly by the American media.


By AT Editor
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had reached a provisional agreement on terms of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the sides were closer to a ceasefire than ever before. But he indicated there were still issues to be resolved and he did not expect any immediate change on the ground.

Cold War lessons on the promise—and nuclear peril—of escalation
Robert Farley

A recent RAND wargame on a potential Russian offensive into the Baltics brought talk of a “new Cold War” into sharp focus. The game made clear that NATO would struggle to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltics if it relied on the conventional forces now available.

 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev giving an interview on the sidelines of the 2016 Munich Securit Conference (Photo: EPA)

Ronen Bergman
Op-ed: The general atmosphere at the 2016 Munich Security Conference was one of despair, confusion and belligerence. The Russians bickered with NATO on every topic, with Russian PM declaring the situation has deteriorated 'to the level of a cold war'; meanwhile, no one talked about the Palestinians, and Iranian FM Zarif failed to draw the same crowds he did in the past.
On stage in Munich, in an almost formal manner, the renewal of the Cold War was announced.

By Finian Cunningham

"Information Clearing House" - "SCF" - Less than five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered military intervention in Syria, the five-year war has been completely transformed. Peace is far from certain as a tentative truce this week will attest. The conflict may even escalate. But what Russia’s intervention has certainly achieved is to squeeze out into the open the poisonous forces of regime change that have brought Syria to its dire condition.

Ian Black Middle East editor
A deadline to secure a cessation of hostilities in Syria has passed, further delaying the resumption of UN-brokered peace talks between the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

 

By Joseph S. Nye Jr
Moscow may try to link cooperation in the Syrian crisis to relief from sanctions.
For the last fifty-two years, leaders from around the world have gathered in Munich for an annual review of world security problems. This year’s discussion focused on the civil war in Syria. Not only is Syria a political and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, but the refugee flows from that war are causing a political crisis in Europe.


Suat Kınıklıoğlu
Syria has been on our agenda for the last five years.

The pendulum in Syria has swung from the early optimism of the Arab Awakening that predicted a quick downfall of President Bashar al-Assad to the current pessimism, which features the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as unseen misery unleashed by the regime in Damascus. These days the conflict is threatening to become a larger confrontation, namely one between NATO and its regional allies against Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Damascus.


Project Syndicate
WINCHESTER – “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” George Santayana’s dictum seems particularly appropriate nowadays, with the Arab world, from Syria and Iraq to Yemen and Libya, a cauldron of violence; Afghanistan locked in combat with the Taliban; swaths of central Africa cursed by bloody competition – often along ethnic/religious lines – for mineral resources. Even Europe’s tranquility is at risk – witness the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, which before the current ceasefire had claimed more than 6,000 lives.


DEBKAfile Special Report 

At the end of hours of debate in Munich, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced early Friday, Feb. 12, that the US, Russia and other powers had agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria’s civil war to take place next week and immediate humanitarian access to besieged areas.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added: The cessation would go into effect next Friday, Feb. 19 but, he stressed, “terrorist” groups would continue to be targeted.

Shashank Joshi, theguardian
Putting aside the unfortunate historical ring to “peace” agreements signed in Munich, today’s Syrian truce is deeply flawed and unlikely to hold for long. The “cessation of hostilities” – for it is not a true ceasefire – has been hailed as a landmark piece of diplomacy that brings some respite to a war that long ago spiralled out of control.


By The Saker

And how will Russia react if he triggers it 

Week Seventeen of the Russian Intervention in Syria:

"Information Clearing House" - " Unz Review" - The situation with Turkey is rapidly getting out of control: not only have the Turks conducted artillery strikes across the Syrian border, Turkey has refused to comply with its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty and refused to let a Russian surveillance aircraft overfly Turkey. The Russian military has now declared that it had detected signs of Turkish preparations for an invasion. The Turkish refusal to abide by the Open Skies Treaty is an extremely worrisome development, especially when combined with the Russian warnings about the preparation for an invasion of Syria, and the Russians are not mincing their words:


by Jonathan Spyer, The Jerusalem Post
Originally published under the title "Precarious Syria Talks Leave Its Future Uncertain."

The failure of the peace talks was foreseen by most serious analysts on Syria.
UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura this week announced the suspension of just-convened peace talks in Geneva intended to resolve the Syrian civil war.


DEBKAfile Special Report 

The five-year Syrian civil war, faces its most critical moment. Saturday, Feb. 6, a combined force of Syrian army and Hizballah troops and an Iraqi Shiite militia under Iranian officers, were led by Russian air and Spetsnaz (special forces) officers into pressing forward to encircle 35,000 rebels trapped in Aleppo, the country’s largest city. As they tightened the siege, 400,000 Syrian civilians were also trapped and forced to bear heavy Russian air bombardment and savage artillery fire from the ground forces closing in on the city.

 

BURAK BEKDİL, hurriyetdailynews

Until Jan. 29, elementary military technology described a Russian Su-24 aircraft as a supersonic, all-weather bomber developed in the Soviet Union, and a Su-34 as a jet designed for tactical deployment against ground and naval targets on solo and group missions with counter-fire and electronic warfare counter-measures. The main difference between the two aircraft was that the advanced Su-34 was a replacement for the Su-24. Jan. 29 displayed another major difference: Su-24s can be shot down when they violate Turkish airspace while Su-34s cannot.

 Acrimony behind the diplomatic smiles
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report 

While diplomats from 70 countries talked in London about how to raise $9 bn for projects to rehabilitate Syria’s refugees and rebuild their war-ravaged country, its future was further clouded this week by an argument that flared between the main arbiters, Russia and Iran.


Tensions between Russia and Turkey continue to escalate following the downing in November of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet that strayed into Turkish airspace.
Questions are being raised now whether the two countries are heading for a military confrontation. A leading Turkish military expert told Al-Monitor that such a Russian move could spell disaster for Turkey.

Nikolas K. Gvosdev
As expected, the Russian government has reacted to U.S. plans to quadruple its planned military spending. The spending increase, announced this week, is intended to support greater U.S. deployments in eastern and central Europe by expanding the equipment stationed there and by rotating American troops in order to maintain, at any given point, the equivalent of a full armored combat brigade in the area.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (right) meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Jan. 20 in Davos to discuss the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, economic cooperation and other regional issues. Turkey receives 6 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan annually - about 75 percent of the Caucasus country’s annual exports. (Photo: Turkish Presidential Press Service)

 by Dorian Jones and Durna Safarova 

With Russian-Turkish relations bottoming out after Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet last November, Ankara is scrambling to reduce its dependency on Russian gas. But the help it needs from post-Soviet energy producers may not be swift in coming.

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 13 Issue
By: Paul Goble

Because Vladimir Putin has made the presence of ethnic Russians in other countries so central to his efforts to expand Moscow’s influence, their departure from any region or country means far more now than it did a decade ago. Nowhere has their exit been more massive—and, consequently, the influence of ethnic Russians on local governments more reduced—than in Central Asia, where they are now half as numerous as they were a generation ago. And because the titular nationalities there have been growing rapidly, the share of ethnic Russians in the population of these five countries has fallen even more.

Beijing and Moscow are working well together, for now.
Michael Clarke Anthony Ricketts

China and Russia have increased their security, economic and diplomatic relationship, complicating an already fragile Asia-Pacific region. Many analysts have viewed this enhanced collaboration as the beginning of a partnership set on destabilizing the Western-led order and diminishing the capacity for the United States to influence strategic outcomes in the region. But this line of reasoning affords primacy to the material components of Beijing and Moscow’s newfound affection for each other, neglecting the salience of the historical and normative elements that inform their relationship.