Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

 

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world – as displayed during the Obama Administration – are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally.

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih.

Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran. Analysts wonder where the current visit of King Salman will really lead to, but all signs are on green for a straightforward Arab-Saudi support for a bigger Russian role in the region, and more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas markets.

In stark contrast to the difficult relationship of the West with the Arab world, Moscow seems to be playing the regional power game at a higher level. It can become an ally or friend to regional adversaries, such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and now Saudi Arabia. Arab regimes are also willing to discuss cooperation with Russia, even though the country is supporting adversaries in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts and continues to supply arms to the Shi’a regime in Iran.

Investors can expect Russia and Saudi Arabia to sign a multitude of business deals, some of which have already been presented. Moscow and Riyadh will also discuss the still fledgling oil and gas markets, as both nations still heavily depend on hydrocarbon revenues. Arab analysts expect both sides to choose a bilateral strategy to keep oil prices from falling lower. Riyadh and Moscow have the same end goal: a stable oil and gas market, in which demand and supply keep each other in check to push price levels up, but without leaving enough breathing space for new market entrants such as U.S. shale.

Putin and Salman will also discuss the security situation in the Middle East, especially the ongoing Syrian civil war, Iran’s emerging power, and the Libya situation. Until now, the two have supported opposite sides, but Riyadh has realized that its ultimate goal, the removal of Syrian president Assad, is out of reach. To prevent a full-scale Shi’a triangle (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon), other options are now being sought to quell Tehran’s power surge. Moscow is key in this.

Putin’s unconditional support of the Iranian military onslaught in Iraq and Syria, combined with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or Houthis in Yemen, will be discussed and maybe tweaked to give Riyadh room to maneuver into the Russian influence sphere. The verdict on this isn’t yet out, but Riyadh’s move must be seen

in light of ongoing Moscow discussions with Egypt, Libya, Jordan and the UAE.

A growing positive Putin vibe in the Arab world is now clear. The strong leadership of Russia’s new Tsar has become a main point of interest for the (former pro-Western) Arab regimes. The U.S. and its European allies have only shown a diffuse political-military approach to the threats in the MENA region, while even destabilizing historically pro-Western Arab royalties and presidents. Putin’s friendship, however, is being presented as unconditional and long lasting.

Even though geopolitics and military operations in the Middle East now are making up most headlines, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement will also have economic consequences. Riyadh’s leadership of OPEC is still undisputed, as it has shown over the last several years. Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to counter the free-fall of oil prices has been successful, but a much bigger effort is required to bring prices back to a level of between $60-75 per barrel. Russia’s role—as the largest of non-OPEC producers—has been substantial, bringing in not only several emerging producers, but also by putting pressure on its allies Iran, Venezuela and Algeria.

The historically important Moscow-Riyadh cooperation in oil and gas is unprecedented. Without Russia’s support, overall compliance to the OPEC production cut agreement would have been very low, leading to even lower oil prices.

The Saudi-Russian rapprochement could, however, be seen as a threat by the West and OPEC itself. Western influence in the region has waned since the end of the 1990s, not only due to the peace dividend of NATO, but especially because OECD countries are moving away from oil. Saudi Arabia had to find new markets, which happened with China and India. The Saudi future is no longer based on Western customers or support, but lies in Asia and other emerging regions. The FSU region has also popped up on Saudi screens. Investment opportunities, combined with geopolitical support and military interests, are readily available in Russia and its satellite states.

For OPEC, the Moscow-Riyadh love affair could also mean a threat. Throughout OPEC’s history, Riyadh has been the main power broker in the oil cartel, pushing forward price and production strategies; most of the time this was done in close cooperation with all the other members, most of them Arab allies. This changed dramatically after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to cooperate in global oil markets. Through the emergence of this OPEC/ non-OPEC cooperation, Moscow and Riyadh have grown closer than expected. The two countries now decide the future of global oil markets before they discuss it with some of the other main players like UAE, Iran, Algeria and Nigeria. King Salman’s visit is seen as another step toward a more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas related issues.

Besides global oil market cooperation, Saudi Arabia is and will become more interested to invest in natural gas development, not only to have an interest in Russia’s gas future but also to bring in Russian technology, investment and LNG to the Kingdom.

At the same time, media sources are stating that Saudi Arabia is NOT asking Russia to take part in the long-awaited Aramco IPO in 2018. Russian individual investors and financial institutions, however, are expected to take an interest.

Putin understands not only Russian chess tactics but also the Arab “Tawila” approach. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman already will prepare his Tawila strategy, putting enough stones on the table to ensure his successful end game. MBS, currently de-facto ruler of the Kingdom, is targeting a full house—Russian cooperation in energy, defense and investments—while softening Moscow’s 100% percent support of the Shi’a archenemy Iran.

For both sides, Moscow and Riyadh, the current constellation presents a win-win situation. Moscow can reach its ultimate goal in the Middle East: to become the main power broker and knock the US from the pedestal. For Riyadh, the option to counter the Iranian threat, while also bolstering its own economy and hydrocarbon future, is now within reach.

King Salman’s trip could go down in history as the point of no return for the West. Pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Salman of Saudi Arabia could replace historic pictures of King Saud and U.S. President Roosevelt (Bitter Lake, 1945). In a few years, King-to-be Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman might tell his children that this was one of the pillars that changed not only the Middle East but also supported his Vision 2030 plan of becoming a bridge between the old (West) and the new (Russia-Asia).

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By Chris Hedges

The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression

and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt, which does not seem likely, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two. The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states. Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,” by “a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg” that will “forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire.”

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment

to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and cyberwarfare, we are being rapidly overtaken by the Chinese. “In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while China’s would triple and come close to surpassing America’s in 2030,” McCoy noted. China became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world’s leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world’s manufacturing for a century. The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World.” It found that the U.S. military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and “it no longer can … automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.” McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire—the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback. They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised

that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. They insisted that the bold and quick military strike—“shock and awe”—would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted, this “unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy.”

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation’s few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” McCoy writes. “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystique—a mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation—seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire. The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat. America’s high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.

The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists. We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military’s penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair. The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election—a reaction to the corporate coup d’état and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country—have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy. Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide. We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the myth of human progress.

“The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit—witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium’s rubber lust in the Congo, British India’s opium commerce, the Third Reich’s rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.”

When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, “empires become brittle.”

“So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq],” he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

“For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness,” McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls “insubstantial issues” will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance—wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites—will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes if we do not wrest power from those who rule the corporate state.

 

Confirming, and sending the clearest sign of his previously discussed pivot toward Russia and away from NATO and the West, on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had signed a deal to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system, and paid the first installment. The deal cements Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia, despite differences over the war in Syria, the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey in late 2015 and the assassination of a Russian ambassador earlier this year, and comes as Turkey’s ties with the United States and European Union have become strained to the point of breaking.

Although the missile purchase from Russia was made public several months ago, Erdogan’s announcement was the first confirmation that Turkey had transferred money to pay for the S-400 missile system.

“Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia,” Erdogan said in comments published in several newspapers on Tuesday. “A deposit has also been paid as far as I know.”

As the NYT writes, “the purchase of the missile system flies in the face of cooperation within the NATO alliance, which Turkey has belonged to since the early 1950s. NATO does not ban purchases of military hardware from manufacturers outside the American-led alliance, but it does discourage members from buying equipment not compatible with that used by other members.”

According to reports in the Russian media, Turkey is to get four batteries of S-400 launchers complete with targeting radar and control posts. Some aspects of the deal are reportedly to be finalized, but Russian officials said the contract furthers Russia’s geostrategic interests.

* * *

Predictably, the Pentagon promptly reiterated its concerns over the deal, which it said undermines inter-operability of weapons systems among NATO allies. “We have relayed our concerns to Turkish officials regarding the potential purchase of the S-400. A NATO inter-operable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region,” spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.

A NATO official in Brussels where the alliance is headquartered, said that no NATO member currently operates the Russian missile system and that the alliance had not been informed about the details of the purchase by Turkey. “What matters for NATO is that the equipment allies acquire is able to operate together,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as required by alliance procedures. “Interoperability of allied armed forces is essential to NATO for the conduct of our operations.”

However, on Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the critics of Turkey’s deal with Russia, saying Ankara had no intention of waiting for the protection of its NATO allies.

“They have gone crazy because we made a deal for S-400s,” Erdogan said Wednesday in a speech to the ruling AKP mayors in Ankara, as cited by Hurriyet.

“What do you expect? Should we wait for you? We take care of ourselves in every security point. We are taking precautions and we will continue to do so,” the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan criticized the reluctance of US and Israel to authorize supply of combat drones to Turkey as another example of how Turkish security was sidelined by its allies.

“When they did give [drones], their repair and maintenance put us in a difficult position. Now [Turkey] has come to a point where it can produce its own unmanned, armed air vehicles. And now they are uncomfortable with that,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan also dismissed issues of interoperability, brand loyalties or the geopolitical optics of such a sale. “Nobody has the right to discuss the Turkish republic’s independence principles

or independent decisions about its defense industry,” the daily newspaper Hurriyet reported him as saying.

“We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves,” he said. “We are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country.”

As the NYT adds, Erdogan’s announcement — made to Turkish journalists aboard his presidential jet as he returned from Kazakhstan — appeared timed as a response to two judicial cases announced last week in the United States. One is against his presidential bodyguards, who are charged with assaulting protesters when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington this year. The other is against a group of Turks, including a former minister, accused of breaking United States sanctions against Iran. Erdogan has angrily criticized both cases.

* * *

The S-400 SAM is designed to detect, track and then destroy aircraft, drones or missiles. It’s Russia’s most advanced integrated air defense system, and can hit targets as far as 250 miles away. Russia has also agreed to sell them to China and India, both nations who are masters at reverse engineering. Most concerning for NATO, however is that the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction.

Turkey has been weighing options for acquiring long-range SAMs for years. In 2013, Ankara surprised other NATO members by announcing that it was going to purchase the FD-2000 system from China, sparking criticism from Washington. Defense observers speculated that Turkey played the China card to put pressure on its allies and get better terms for buying a NATO-compatible SAM system, such as the US-made Patriot PAC-3. The Chinese deal stalled and was eventually scrapped, with Turkey reportedly unhappy over Beijing’s reluctance to hand over the technology behind the advanced system. Last year Ankara announced that it was in talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the S-400.

Turkey has other reasons for the missile purchase. It needs to cultivate good relations with Russia, and it also needs to build its own military defense, said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Turkey wants the deal,” she said, “and Russia is only too happy to drive a wedge into the NATO alliance.”

While NATO’s collective defense should have been sufficient for Turkey – NATO deployed Patriot missiles there during a rise of tensions with Syria in the past – Erdogan lost trust in the West since last year’s failed “coup attempt”, which he slammed repeatedly as a Western plot to oust him, and appears determined to secure his own defense.

Furthermore, the transfer of technology from Russia is attractive to Turkey: Erdogan has spoken also of his frustration at having requests to the United States for drones turned down, and of his satisfaction that Turkey developed its own.

Notably, Erdogan’s announcement of the deal with Russia came after Germany said that it was suspending all major arms exports to Turkey because of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the increasingly strained ties. “We have put on hold all big requests that Turkey sent to us, and these are really not a few,” the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said during a panel discussion in Berlin on Monday, according to Reuters.

While the purchase of Russian missiles will take cooperation between the two nations to a new level, but is not the first time that Turkey has bought military equipment from Russia. It turned to Moscow in the early 1990s to buy military helicopters and armored personnel carriers. Last year, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to revive a suspended natural-gas pipeline project.

Meanwhile, as the US military-industrial complex has flourished in recent months following a spike in deals with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and other nations courtesy of rising geopolitical tensions, Russia has remained largely squeezed out of the arms market in Western and Eastern Europe, even in countries that once bought nearly all their weapons from the Soviet Union, has looked for years to NATO’S eastern flank as a promising market and the alliance’s weakest link. It has also sold weapons to Greece, another NATO member and to Cyprus, which is not a member of NATO but houses British military bases and effectively serves as an outpost of the alliance.

Meanwhile, as Turkey’s suspicions toward the West have grown, relations with Russia warmed, driven by the personal relationship between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Erdogan has expressed personal admiration for Putin, to the consternation of many European and American leaders, if not President Trump. Erdogan has also shown a preference for the Russian model, with its sense of restoring a lost empire, returning Turkey to a more independent place in the world and rejecting Western democracy.

At the same time, the fact that Turkey belongs to NATO has only increased Mr. Putin’s desire to forge strong relations with Mr. Erdogan despite their differences over the conflict in Syria.

Mr. Putin and myself are determined on this issue,” Erdogan told journalists about the missile deal.

Last week, NATO announced that it had begun tracking the movement of Russian military aircraft operating in Syria using AWACS reconnaissance planes operating from Turkish bases. But as luck would have it, Russia has just received all the tools it needs to neutralize the alliance’s snooping.

In late September, NATO announced that a fleet of 16 Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft would be sent to Turkey, ostensibly to help the alliance’s ongoing efforts against the Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists. A month later, the alliance confirmed that the aircraft had been deployed, and that they started their surveillance of Syrian airspace beginning October 20.

NATO stressed that the planes are being flown only over international airspace or over Turkey, and will not enter Syrian airspace. Nevertheless, their presence will give them the theoretical capability to monitor aircraft flying over much of Syria. The systems aboard the 16 Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft allow them to detect targets flying at low altitudes from distances of up to 400 km, and from distances between 450 and 650 km for planes flying at medium and high altitudes. In other words, hypothetically speaking, they can easily detect aircraft operating in Syria without ever crossing the border.

The E-3s were deployed to Turkey at Ankara’s request, and following a formal decision at the NATO summit in Warsaw in July. The aircraft have been placed at an air base in the central Turkish province of Konya.
Moscow obviously hasn’t been fooled by alliance claims that the planes were deployed to fight the terrorists. Experts have previously pointed out Daesh has no air force, adding that AWACS aircraft in the area are obviously directed against the Syrian Air Force and the Russian air group operating in Syria.
In fact, despite the formal talk of an ‘anti-Daesh’ deployment, RAF Air Commander Paddy Teakle came out and openly admitted that the planes will be used to spy on Russian and Syrian jets. “I will not deny that the AWACS will monitor the Russian air forces in Syria, and the air forces of Bashar al-Assad, from Turkish territory; given their range, the radars can monitor territory in Syria and Iraq. But this is not our only goal,” Teakle said.
As luck would have it, the Russian Ministry of Defense has already worked out a response – installing electronic warfare equipment to the tried and tested Ilyushin Il-22 platform. The new Il-22PP ‘Porubshchik’ (roughly ‘Lumberjack’) electronic warfare and reconnaissance system passed state testing in September. One Il-22PP aircraft was handed over to the air force, with two more expected to be delivered later this month.
According to the system’s designers, the plane’s onboard electronics are specifically designed to counter modern AWACS systems, ground-based air defense (such as the MIM-104 Patriot missile system) and manned and unmanned aircraft.
The Il-22PP features frequency selectivity, meaning that it will not jam friendly radio electronic systems. Its carrier, a modernized, four-engine Il-22, has a range of up to 6,500 km at altitudes of 8,800 meters and a speed of up to 685 km/h.
In addition to jamming capabilities, the planes are capable of conducting electronic intelligence operations of their own, and of protecting friendly aircraft from enemy electronic warfare.
 The new Il-22PPs will soon be complemented by the Tu-214R, a completely new design, equipped with cutting-edge optical, electronic and radar systems. In August, the Defense Ministry confirmed that a Tu-214R had undergone testing in Syria. That aircraft is itself intended to replace the Ilyushin Il-20M electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft, but is capable of multitasking.
The Tu-214R’s capabilities include ELINT, signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT). The plane’s antennae are capable of intercepting signals emitted by everything from aircraft to combat vehicles and mobile phones, and can build an electronic order of battle (EOB). The Tu-214R has been undergoing extensive state testing all this year.
In other words, just as NATO decided to deploy over a dozen AWACS planes in Turkey to keep an eye on Syria, Russia rolled out several new aircraft allowing Moscow to jam NATO intelligence gathering operations at the flick of a switch. And that’s not even counting the jamming capabilities of ground-based systems already deployed. Whether Russia decides to use this equipment selectively or on a mass scale remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: NATO officials probably won’t be the ones to admit that their surveillance operation in Syria isn’t gathering as much useful info as they hoped they would get.
In a further sign of growing tensions between the United States and Turkey, Pentagon officials revealed on Wednesday that the Kurdish YPG militia will play a major role in the upcoming attack on the Daesh-held city of Raqqa, and it’s not good news for Ankara.
As coalition forces continue retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh, US officials are looking ahead to Raqqa, the terrorist group’s Syrian stronghold.
American forces are currently on the ground in Syria to train opposition fighters, including Kurdish YPG militia fighters operating within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend. However, a key US ally isn’t happy about it.
“Turkey doesn’t want to see us operating with the SDF anywhere, particularly in Raqqa. We’re having talks with Turkey and we’re going to take this in steps,” Townsend told reporters.
“The only force that is capable on any near-term timeline are the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG are a significant portion. We’re going to take the force that we have and we will go to Raqqa soon with that force.”
Townsend underlined the importance of liberating Raqqa, saying US officials believe the city is where the terrorist group plans most of its international attacks.
“We think it’s very important to get isolation in place around Raqqa to start controlling that environment on a pretty short timeline.”
 As the eastern flank of the NATO alliance, Turkey is a vital ally to the United States and its Western partners. Tensions have been high through the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under Erdogan, Ankara has launched a crackdown on Kurdish communities in the country’s southeast.
In what may have been an effort to appease Turkish leadership, US officials stressed that, while the YPG will play a role in the offensive, it will not be directly involved in taking Raqqa. Townsend added that the US will also play a smaller role in the Raqqa operation than it has in Mosul.
“We’ll have fewer coalition troops there, less combat capability there, we’ll have to apply coalition combat support in a different way than we are doing here in Iraq,” he said.
Expected to coincide with the Mosul operation, the Raqqa offensive is expected to begin soon.
“I think it will be within weeks, that’s what I want to say, and not many weeks,” US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters on Tuesday.
Washington’s Russia policy has failed, US experts note, adding that whether one likes it or not the US “has no better option than to keep trying to work with Russia” in Syria.
Washington’s Russia policy has largely failed, Thomas Graham, managing director at Kissinger Associates, and Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, state in their article for Foreign Policy magazine.

“By any number of measures, Washington’s Russia policy has failed. While ostensibly suffering from diplomatic and economic isolation under a US-led international sanctions regime, Moscow has succeeded in challenging a wide range of American interests, most notably in Ukraine, Syria, and cyberspace,” Graham and Rojansky emphasized.

The scholars argued that the US leadership, both Democratic and Republican, have misread Russia in the last three decades. At the root of Washington’s misconception about Russia lies the belief that it can be either defeated or involved in the US’ fold.
“The next president needs to accept that Moscow cannot simply be defeated or contained in the emerging multipolar, globalized world order. It must be engaged through a comprehensive balance of cooperation and competition,” the US scholars stressed.
Instead of futile attempts to defeat or transform Russia, “a new US approach should deal with Russia as it really is,” they note, adding that it is still “a major power on the world stage.”
The scholars continued that the next US administration will have to convince Moscow to cooperate on issues like preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), recognizing the fact that Russia still has its own geopolitical interests which seldom overlap entirely with those of Washington.
“The goal should involve constructing a web of interactions, both cooperative and competitive, that yields the most beneficial balance for our [the US’] national interests,” Graham and Rojansky highlighted.
As for Syria, whether one likes it or not, the US “has no better option than to keep trying to work with Russia,” the US scholars believe.
They explained that Moscow has the wherewithal to maintain a longstanding military presence in Syria with Damascus, Iran and “perhaps even” Turkey supporting Russia’s Syrian operation.
The scholars noted that the much-discussed no-fly zone in Syria, championed by some of US policymakers, should be dismissed as unrealistic, since it bears the risk of igniting an all-out war with Moscow “in the region and elsewhere.”
At the same time Graham and Rojansky insisted that US-Russian discussions on Syria would have a greater chance of success if they were linked with the Ukraine crisis issue and the broader issue of European security.
Enea Gjoza of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government echoes Graham and Rojansky. The US academic believes that it is time for Washington to return to “smart diplomacy” while dealing with Moscow.
“A return to the smart, interest-based diplomacy that characterized US foreign policy during the Cold War is essential for making progress on intractable problems,” Gjoza emphasized in his op-ed for The National Interest.
“Particularly in dealing with other nuclear powers, coming to terms through diplomacy is the only way to safeguard our interests while preserving peace,” he added, referring to the situation in Syria.
In reality, the US and its European allies have no leverage on Russia, according to Moscow-based political analyst Irina Alksnis.
The West’s inability to influence Russia in Syria prompts Washington and Brussels to issue empty threats, such as to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and hold Damascus and Moscow responsible for “war crimes,” she noted in her article for Russian online newspaper Vzglyad.
While there are no legal preconditions for bringing Moscow and Damascus to trial, the West’s intention to exert pressure on Russia and the Syrian government could be rephrased as the following: “We can’t defeat Russia and Syria either politically or militarily, so they ought to surrender themselves to us so that we can punish them for their behavior that we don’t like,” Alksnis remarked with a touch of irony.
The political analyst stressed that behind the hawkish rhetoric of some Western policy-makers lies their irritation with Russia coupled with their inability to swing the balance in the West’s favor.
Although the Obama administration has repeatedly signaled that it is considering military options in Syria, including arming the opposition and launching direct air strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army, it appears that Pentagon and NATO war planners are not really ready to provoke a direct conflict between Russia and the US, Alksnis underscored.
That means, the political analyst suggested, that Moscow and Damascus will continue their counter-terrorism campaign in Syria while waiting for the West to adopt more cooperative and negotiable stance on foreign policy issues.
Over the last days, the ceasefire in Syria has teetered on the verge of collapse. The founder and director of Gnosos, an organization that offers stakeholder opinions on Syria and the Middle East, Ammar Waqqaf spoke to Sputnik about how the US is losing its leverage in Syria now that the ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia is failing to hold.

“Americans are losing leverage on the whole arena in Syria. They are not in a position in a sense to tell people what to do and this is very serious,” Waqqaf said.

“We can also make reference to the fact that they are fearful of exposing and publishing the whole agreement with Russia, which Russia is very much insisting upon. It’s not only that but also having some sort of Security Council resolution binding that sort of the agreement,” the deputy said.
He further said that the US is trying to balance between very contradicting interests, such as those of the Saudis and the Turks, let alone the many factions on the ground.
“Rebels on the ground that are obviously backed by Saudi Arabia have refused to accept the ceasefire from the beginning. They issued a statement including the most notable, branding the rebel groups as moderate, which puts the US in a very bad position,” the deputy said.
He further said that they seem to be unable to control the situation and the only thing that they can do is threaten to cause it to deteriorate even more.
“Our estimate at Gnosos is that America has made some sort of strategic shifts, which explains Secretary Kerry’s visit to Moscow with a proposal to join forces against Daesh and al-Nusra [Front],” Waqqaf said.
He further said that this strategic shift is about recognizing for the very first time that the US is probably looking for a way to ‘ditch’ the moderate rebels that it was supporting in the beginning.
“We believe there would be a solution if we could just bypass the current situation, although we believe that it could get ugly for a while,” the analyst said.
He said that the Syrian government and its Russian allies have started to resume their offensive on Aleppo in earnest probably trying to push eastern Aleppo into a peace deal, such as the one that it struck previously in parts of Homs.
Over the last several days, the ceasefire in Syria has teetered on the verge of collapse. Fighting in Aleppo intensified after the Syrian army declared an end to the week-long break in the fighting on Friday, blaming militants for numerous violations that made the cessation of hostilities untenable.
Despite numerous violations of the ceasefire, politicians and experts say that it hasn’t failed yet. On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that the US-Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement is still viable.