Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Let's Talk Turkey ... and Russia

There is an interesting dimension developing in the Middle East that may have a real impact on the course of history. Turkey and Russia both have plans for that part of the world -and those plans conflict -except for a desire to reduce or eliminate U.S. influence.

Tayyip Erdo─čan, Turkey's Prime Minister, and his party came to power several years ago. They were voted into power in democratic elections but, as in Egypt, the real power rested with the military. Erdogan played it smart. His Islamic party consolidated power and immediately began replacing judges, prosecutors and key police personnel with party members. Once they had a firm control on the judicial system they began arresting their political enemies which included powerful military officers. That means that the military now has far less control and far less ability to challenge the civilian government.

Erdogan's Islamic Party now has a free hand to control both domestic and foreign policies. Erdogan would like to see a rebuilding of the Turkish Empire in a more modernized version . A modernized version means that the empire no longer conquers and takes over smaller countries, now they simply intimidate them militarily and economically to ensure their support. As part of that vision, he would very much like replace Saudi Arabia as the acknowledged leader of the Sunni Muslim world. That places him in direct conflict with Syria, Iran and, importantly, with Russia.

Russia's plans for the area are on a head-on collision course with Turkey's. Putin wants to re-establish Russia as one of the world's major Super Powers. That brings Russia into play for two reasons. First, Russia does not want Turkey gaining influence over the old Soviet Unions Islamic countries bordering Turkey (Putin considers those his exclusive sphere of influence and does not trust Turkish ties with NATO). Second, Russia has only one Naval base in the entire Mediterranean Sea and that is located at Tartus, Syria. That base was established during the Cold War in 1971 in an agreement with Syria. It became little used after the fall of the Soviet Union but Putin has recently brought it back to life as a major supply and maintenance base. The last thing Putin wants is to see a new Syrian government force a closure of that base, reducing Russian presence and influence throughout the Mediterranean.

Turkey will turn to NATO and the US to get involved in overthrowing Assad because they want a Sunni government allied with Turkey in Syria. Russia will support Iran to keep Assad in power. If NATO and/or the United States become involved militarily in Syria to get rid of Assad and stop the killing of civilians - we will see a protracted proxy war between East and West -and the killing will be just beginning...

Live Long and Prosper...

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