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Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Putin’

Don’t Believe Biden’s Assurances About Not Going To War Over Ukraine

Posted by M. C. on December 18, 2021

If Russia invades Ukraine, the Biden administration says it is prepared to do more than the U.S. did in 2014. But, what does that actually mean?

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/dont-believe-bidens-assurances-about-not-going-to-war-over-ukraine/

Don’t Believe Biden’s Assurances About Not Going To War Over Ukraine

If Russia invades Ukraine, the Biden administration says it is prepared to do more than the U.S. did in 2014. But, what does that actually mean?(By BiksuTong/Shutterstock)

December 9, 2021|

1:00 pm Bradley Devlin

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met via an online video conference that spanned two hours, primarily in an attempt to defuse the heightening tensions in Ukraine. 

Biden attempted to deter Putin’s Russia from considering an invasion in the near future by threatening increased economic sanctions and “other measures” if the situation becomes more dire, according to a White House readout of the call. The White House readout was unsurprisingly light on details, although it reiterated Biden’s “support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy.” The Kremlin’s summary of the call claimed Biden told Putin the Russian president was approaching a “red line” regarding Ukraine.

After the call, other members of the Biden administration provided more details on what could be to come if Russia continues its buildup along the Ukrainian border. Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told members of the media at a press conference after the call that “things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now,” in reference to the Obama administration’s response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Biden was V.P. then, but he’s president now. 

The U.S. still considers the Crimean Peninsula illegally occupied territory. Back in 2014, the Obama administration responded to the initial annexation by imposing sanctions, banning or revoking visas for Russian officials, canceling trade and military diplomatic discussions, as well as providing loan guarantees and humanitarian aid. 

During the administration that followed, Donald Trump, whose Russia policy was hamstrung domestically by the infamous Russia hoax, frequently boasted that he gave Ukraine “anti-tank busters,” whereas Obama was sending them “pillows and sheets.” Since 2014, the U.S. has given the Ukrainians more than $2.5 billion in security assistance.

What, then, is America prepared to do for Ukraine that it didn’t in 2014 and the years since? Biden’s team hasn’t quite specified, often making overtures to democracy and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but the administration’s focus is reportedly ramping up economic penalties directed at a number of Russian oligarchs, as well as cutting off some Russian companies from global capital markets in coordination with the United States’ European allies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum of punishing Russia economically for its buildup on Ukraine’s border is cutting Russia off from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication that serves as a mediator between banks for international transactions. The U.S. and its allies could also pressure Russia by attempting to slow, if not stop, the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany.

However, none of these measures are particularly new, and somewhat in line with how the United States has responded to Russian action in Ukraine since 2014. Again I ask, what is the U.S. prepared to do that it hasn’t done before? Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, said Monday, “if Russia chooses to move forward with any plans it may have developed to continue its military aggression or to aggress militarily upon Ukraine, to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, its independence, its territorial integrity, we and our allies would be prepared to act.” Price later added that the Biden administration is committed to NATO’s open-door policy, which is inherently militaristic in nature.

While reports indicate that the administration is not debating direct military involvement in Ukraine at the moment, they’re doing an awfully bad job of reassuring the public they won’t stumble into yet another foreign policy debacle. 

Biden attempted to provide such reassurances Wednesday while answering questions from the media outside the White House. The president said, “The idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now.” However, by qualifying that statement with the term “unilateral,” Biden made his statement nonfunctional, given any action in Ukraine will be at the invitation of the Ukrainians, not to mention the U.S. capabilities in the region are heavily intertwined with NATO. Biden admitted this himself, saying that the U.S. would be “required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries,” and that “it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well.”

This doesn’t inspire much hope. The U.S. has pulled its allies into conflicts before, albeit begrudgingly in some cases. Who says it won’t happen again, despite our humiliation meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries over similar concerns (ostensibly) for freedom and democracy.

It seems the foreign policy blob is set on continuing to walk the tightrope of red lines despite a bad case of vertigo.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don’t include the word “Daily.” He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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Eurasia takes shape: How the SCO just flipped the world order

Posted by M. C. on September 24, 2021

The whole Global South, stunned by the accelerated collapse of the western Empire and its unilateral rules-based order, now seems to be ready to embrace the new groove, fully displayed in Dushanbe: a multipolar Greater Eurasia of sovereign equals.

The US better rethink it’s Iranian and Chinese war plans.

https://thecradle.co/Article/analysis/2104

By Pepe Escobar

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/22154938/Unknown-11.jpeg

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on 15 August, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

Watch that quadrilateral

Dushanbe was not just a bed of roses. Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon, a staunch, secular Muslim and former member of the Communist Party of the USSR – in power for no less than 29 years, re-elected for the 5th time in 2020 with 90 percent of the vote – right off the bat denounced the “medieval sharia” of Taliban 2.0 and said they had already “abandoned their previous promise to form an inclusive  government.”

Rahmon, who has never been caught smiling on camera, was already in power when the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996. He was bound to publicly support his Tajik cousins against the “expansion of extremist ideology” in Afghanistan – which in fact worries all SCO member-states when it comes to smashing dodgy jihadi outfits of the ISIS-K mold.

See the rest here

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Butting Heads With China and Russia: American Diplomats Are Outclassed — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on May 17, 2021

To cite yet another dangerous example of playing with fire that one is witnessing in Eastern Europe, the simple understanding that for Russia Belarus and Ukraine are frontline states that could pose existential threats to Moscow if they were to move closer to the west and join NATO appears to be lacking. The U.S. prefers to stand the question on its head and claims that the real issue is “spreading democracy,” which it is not.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2021/05/13/butting-heads-with-china-and-russia-american-diplomats-are-outclassed/

Philip Giraldi

United State engagement in complicated overseas quarrels should be limited to areas where genuine vital interests are at stake.

With the exception of the impending departure of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, if it occurs, the White House seems to prefer to use aggression to deter adversaries rather than finesse. The recent exchanges between Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Alaska demonstrate how Beijing has a clear view of its interests which Washington seems to lack. Blinken initiated the acrimonious exchange when he cited “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.” He then threatened “I said that the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, adversarial where it must be” before adding “I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners. I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.”

The Chinese Foreign Minister responded sharply, rejecting U.S. suggestions that it has a right to interfere in another country’s domestic policies, “I think we thought too well of the United States, we thought that the U.S. side will follow the necessary diplomatic protocols. The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength. We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world.” Yi had a point. Ironically, most of the world believes that the U.S. represents a greater threat to genuine democracy than does either China or Russia.

In another more recent interview Blinken has accused the Chinese of acting “more aggressively abroad” while President Biden has claimed that Beijing has a plan to replace America as the world’s leading economic and military power. U.S. United Nations envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield has also delivered the same message that Washington is preparing to take no prisoners, pledging to push back against what she called China’s “authoritarian agenda” through the various agencies that make up the UN bureaucracy. Indeed, the United States seems trapped in its own rhetoric, finding itself in the middle of a situation with China and Taiwan where warnings that Beijing is preparing to use force to recover its former province leave Washington with few options to support a de facto ally. Peter Beinart in a recent op-ed observes how the White House has been incrementally increasing its diplomatic ties with Taiwan even as it both declares itself “rock solid” on defending while also maintaining “strategic ambiguity.”

China understands its interests while the U.S. continues to be bewildered by Beijing’s successful building of trade alliances worldwide. Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin, reputedly an excellent chess player, is able to think about genuine issues in three dimensions and is always at least four moves ahead of where Biden and his advisers are at any time. Biden public and video appearances frequently seem to be improvisations as he goes along guided by his teleprompter while Putin is able to explain issues clearly, apparently even in English.

A large part of Biden’s problem vis-à-vis both China and Russia is that he has inherited a U.S. Establishment view of foreign and national security policy options. It is based on three basic principles. First, that America is the only superpower and can either ignore or comfortably overcome the objections of other nations to what it is doing. Second, an all-powerful and fully resourced United States can apply “extreme pressure” to recalcitrant foreign governments and those regimes will eventually submit and comply with Washington’s wishes. And third, America has a widely accepted leadership role of the so-called “free world” which will mean that any decision made in Washington will immediately be endorsed by a large number of other nations, giving legitimacy to U.S. actions worldwide.

What Joe Biden actually thinks is, of course, unknown though he has a history of reflexively supporting an assertive and even belligerent foreign policy during his many years in Congress. Kamala Harris, who many believe will be succeeding Biden before too long, appears to have no definitive views at all beyond the usual Democratic Party cant of spreading “democracy” and being strong on Israel. That suggests that the real shaping of policy is coming from the apparatchik and donor levels in the party, to include the neocon-lite Zionist triumvirate at the State Department consisting of Tony Blinken, Wendy Sherman and Victoria Kagan as well as the upper-level bureaucracies at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, which all support an assertive and also interventionist foreign policy to keep Americans “safe” while also increasing their budgets annually. Such thinking leaves little room for genuine national interests to surface.

Biden’s Secretary of State Tony Blinken is, for example, the perfect conformist bureaucrat, shaping his own views around established thinking and creating caveats to provide the Democratic Party leadership with some, though limited, options. Witness for example the current White House attitude towards Iran, which is regarded, along with Russia, as a permanent enemy of the United States. President Biden has expressed his interest in renegotiating a non-nuclear proliferation treaty with the Iranians, now being discussed by diplomats without direct contact in Austria. But Blinken undercuts that intention by wrapping the talks in with other issues that are intended to satisfy the Israelis and their friends in Congress that will make progress unlikely if not impossible. They include eliminating Iran’s alleged role as a regional trouble maker and also ending the ballistic missile development programs currently engaged in by the regime. The downside to all of this is that having a multilateral agreement to limit Iranian enhancement of uranium up to a bomb-making level is very much in the U.S. interest, but it appears to be secondary to other politically motivated side discussions which will derail the process.

See the rest here

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Joe Biden’s Demonic Phase | Kunstler

Posted by M. C. on April 17, 2021

Three weeks ago, Ol’ White Joe called Vladimir Putin “a killer.”  This week, Ol’ Joe called Vlad on the phone and suggested a friendly in-person meet-up in some “third country.” In the meantime, Ol’ Joe essayed to send a couple of US warships into the Black Sea to assert America’s interest in Ukraine, the failed state whose American-sponsored failure was engineered in 2014 by Barack Obama’s State Department. Turkey, which controls the narrow entrance to the Black Sea, was notified that two US destroyers would be steaming through its territory. Hours after the announcement, the US called off the ships. Then, hours after Ol’ Joe proffered that summit meeting, his State Department imposed new economic sanctions on Russia and tossed out a dozen or so Russian embassy staff. How’s that for a coherent foreign policy?

https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/joe-bidens-demonic-phase/

James Howard Kunstler

Joe Biden’s party must be thinking — if you call it thinking — that being psychotic isn’t enough… it’s time to go demonic! How else to explain the supernatural doings of the folks in charge of things in our nation’s capital. The casual observer might suppose that these things are spinning out of control, but you also have to wonder how much Joe Biden & Company are spinning them that way. Are they looking to start a war, for instance?

Three weeks ago, Ol’ White Joe called Vladimir Putin “a killer.”  This week, Ol’ Joe called Vlad on the phone and suggested a friendly in-person meet-up in some “third country.” In the meantime, Ol’ Joe essayed to send a couple of US warships into the Black Sea to assert America’s interest in Ukraine, the failed state whose American-sponsored failure was engineered in 2014 by Barack Obama’s State Department. Turkey, which controls the narrow entrance to the Black Sea, was notified that two US destroyers would be steaming through its territory. Hours after the announcement, the US called off the ships. Then, hours after Ol’ Joe proffered that summit meeting, his State Department imposed new economic sanctions on Russia and tossed out a dozen or so Russian embassy staff. How’s that for a coherent foreign policy?

What’s going on in Ukraine, anyway? The US and NATO have prompted Ukraine to move troops and tanks toward the ethnically-Russian breakaway Donbass region. Russia countered by massing 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. Though supplied with Western armaments, Ukraine’s ragtag and incompetent army has no ability to control the Donbass, nor do either NATO and the US have any real will to interfere there with their own troops — the logistics are insane. Mr. Putin’s elegant solution: evacuate the three-plus million Russians stuck in Donbass into Russia — which needs labor — ceding the empty territory to foundering Ukraine — soon to be an ungovernable post-industrial frontier between East and West. For a rich rundown on these matters, read Dmitry Orlov’s mordant disquisition on the subject: Putin’s Ukrainian Judo.

The lesson there is that the US has absolutely nothing to gain from continuing to antagonize Russia, and that the mentally weak Joe Biden is merely projecting the picture of a weakened and confused USA by keeping it up. Of course, a closer read might be that these hijinks are meant to distract from the more serious and consequential breakdown in relations between the US and China, currently engineered by the blundering team of Sec’y of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who went to Alaska recently to tell the Chinese delegation that they were morally unworthy of conducting trade negotiations, thereby torpedoing the trade negotiations that they went to Alaska to conduct. Smooth move fellas.

Unlike Russia, with its eleven time zones, which actually does not want or need any more territory, China is surely making hegemonic moves all over the place, not just around Hong Kong and Taiwan but in Africa and South America, while it strives to build the world’s largest navy, exports gain-of-function viruses, replaces the US in space exploration, and excels at weaponizing computer science. China’s weaknesses are a lack of sufficient domestic oil supply and food, which its current moves aim to correct. It was on its way to turning the US into a raw materials and food-crop colony when Mr. Trump came along and tried to put a stop to that. And now Ol’ Joe has cancelled that remedial action — after being on the receiving end of Chinese financial largesse in four years out-of-office. Nothing to see there, folks, says Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice, while in possession of Hunter Biden’s laptop, with its trove of incriminating memoranda.

On the domestic front, Joe Biden’s government only seeks to turn American life inside-out and upside-down, with the move to make the politics-neutral District of Columbia into a state, strictly to furnish two more senators for the DNC, and to pack the Supreme Court strictly to advantage the same DNC. Those Bills are being rushed through the House committees but something tells me they will die in the Senate. One also must wonder what exactly the rush is all about. I’ll tell you: something is up in the shadows. Something is lurking out there that is going to bring down Ol’ Joe Biden as an illegitimate chief executive. Could be some new non-ignorable evidence of his China grifting activities, or new non-ignorable evidence about the dubious ballot-tally in last November’s election. Could be something else.

Contrary to just about everybody I communicate with, I remain convinced that former US Attorney for Connecticut, now Special Prosecutor John Durham is still putting real cases together, and I suspect that his cases exceed the narrow spotlight of the origin of the Steele dossier, and I expect that indictments will be announced soon in a way that will shock the nation. Just sayin’… though nobody else is….

Meanwhile, the Wokester branch of Joe Biden’s party makes hay with the ambiguous killings of two more criminal suspects-of-color: first, Daunte Wright of Minneapolis, busy ignoring the open warrant out for him in failing to answer a previous warrant for his role in the 2019 aggravated burglary (that is, with a firearm) of a woman. He was out on $100,000 bail, but it was revoked in July 2020 when he got caught in possession of another gun. In the commotion of his resisting arrest, he got shot, tragically for officer Kim Potter, who somehow mistook her handgun for a taser. She is now teed up on a manslaughter case, while the Wright family is teed up for an $XX-million personal injury lawsuit settlement courtesy of ambulance-chaser Ben Crump. The city of Minneapolis is teed up for a municipal auto-da-fé of lootin-burnin-and-riotin in the name of “justice” — and the Derek Chauvin trial has not even concluded.

Secondarily, out comes the chest-cam video of Chicago police officer Eric Stillman shooting thirteen-year-old junior gang-banger Adam Toledo, in possession of a handgun, in a 3 a.m. chase down a West Side alleyway. So, Officer Stillman is teed up for some sort of career-ending action and Chicago is teed up for another round of lootin-burnin-and-riotin — sure to spread to other cities all over the country as the Woke vengeance campaign moves into its Satanic phase.

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Do We Not Have Enough Enemies? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on March 20, 2021

Biden also faces a new crisis of his own making. His “compassionate” policy on illegal immigration has been rewarded with scores of thousands of children, teenagers and families crossing our Southern border to be granted temporary residence while their cases await hearings.

With the border disintegrating, one would think the Biden administration would not be looking around for other crises.

Yet, in Tokyo, on the eve of his meeting with the Chinese in Anchorage, Blinken was playing the hawk: “China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law. … We will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/03/patrick-j-buchanan/do-we-not-have-enough-enemies/

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Asked bluntly by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos if he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a killer,” Joe Biden answered, “Uh, I do.”

Biden added that he once told Putin to his face that he had “no soul.”

Biden also indicated that new sanctions would be imposed on Russia for the poisoning of dissident Alexei Navalny and for meddling in the 2020 U.S. election to allegedly help Donald Trump. Russia also faces U.S. sanctions for building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic to deliver natural gas to Germany.

With its president being called a “killer” by the U.S. president, Russia called Ambassador Anatoly Antonov home “for consultations.” In other times, such an exchange would bring the two nations to the brink of war.

What is Biden doing? Do we not have enough enemies? Does he not have enough problems on his plate?

The May 1 deadline for full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, negotiated a year ago with the Taliban, is just six weeks off. Do we stay and soldier on or depart? No decision has been announced.

If we stay, our forces in Afghanistan could, again, come under fire. If we leave, the Kabul regime could be shaken to its foundation and fall.

Leaving would be an admission that the U.S. failed, and the war is lost.

After the recent U.S.-South Korea military exercises, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s sister issued this threat to the Biden administration:

“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off powdered smell in our land (that) if it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

There is talk of new North Korean tests of missiles and nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Tokyo this week that the U.S. goal remains “the complete denuclearization of North Korea” But Presidents Bush II, Obama and Trump all failed to achieve that goal.

With national elections in June, the clock is also running on the Tehran regime that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal. Does Biden intend to sign on again, as he indicated in the campaign he would, or walk away?

Biden also faces a new crisis of his own making. His “compassionate” policy on illegal immigration has been rewarded with scores of thousands of children, teenagers and families crossing our Southern border to be granted temporary residence while their cases await hearings.

With the border disintegrating, one would think the Biden administration would not be looking around for other crises.

Yet, in Tokyo, on the eve of his meeting with the Chinese in Anchorage, Blinken was playing the hawk: “China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law. … We will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.”

China has enacted a new law that authorizes its coast guard to use force to defend Chinese sovereignty. And among China’s claims to sovereign control are the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, claimed and controlled by Japan.

Blinken has warned the U.S. will fight to keep the Senkakus Japanese.

While in Tokyo, Blinken also denounced the generals’ coup in Myanmar, accusing Myanmar’s army of “attempting to overturn the results of a democratic election and … brutally repressing peaceful protesters.”

Former national security adviser to President Trump John Bolton has listed other areas where China is engaged in “unacceptable behavior.”

“A by-no-means-comprehensive list of Beijing’s transgressions that require U.S. attention would include: meddling, blatant and subtle, with U.S. public opinion; building military bases in the disputed South China Sea; menacing Taiwan, Vietnam and India; increasing strategic nuclear forces and egregious global cyberwarfare; empowering North Korea’s nuclear weapons program; concealing the origins of covid-19; stealing intellectual property and forcing technology transfers; and genocide against Uyghurs and the repression of Hong Kong.”

Perhaps the Anchorage talks can be extended to get all the items on Bolton’s agenda fully addressed.

Again, does not America have enough on her plate already?

Our national debt is now larger than our national economy. COVID-19 has killed half a million of us and is killing 1,000 a day more. We have a broken and bleeding Southern border being overrun with no end in sight.

Politically, our nation is divided as deeply as it was on the eve of the Civil War. We are caught up in a culture war, at the root of which is an irreconcilable conflict over whether America is a good and great country, perhaps the greatest — or a nation of whose history and founding we ought to be eternally ashamed.

If time is on America’s side in our cold wars with Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, is not the wiser policy to maneuver to avoid any new hot wars?

Patrick J. Buchanan is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of Where the Right Went Wrong, and Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. His latest book is Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever See his website.

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Ideological Imperialism Is Leading to a Bad End – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on February 6, 2021

During the Cold War, the United States regularly dumped over regimes we believed imperiled our cause — Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in the 1960s. After the Cold War, the United States was a major mover in the “color revolutions” that changed regimes in Ukraine and Georgia.

According to Victoria Nuland, then of the State Department, now back again, $5 billion was pumped in to effect the overthrow of the democratically elected pro-Russian regime in Kiev and its replacement by a pro-American one.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/02/patrick-j-buchanan/ideological-imperialism-is-leading-to-a-bad-end/

By Patrick J. Buchanan

When it was learned in 2016 that Russia may have hacked the emails of John Podesta and the DNC, and passed the fruits on to WikiLeaks to aid candidate Donald Trump, mighty was the outrage of the American establishment.

If Russia’s security services filched those emails, and a troll farm in Saint Petersburg sent tweets and texts to stir up rancor in our politics, it was said, this was an attack on American democracy and its most sacred of rituals — the elections by which we chose our leaders.

Yet, when it comes to interfering in the affairs of other nations, how sinless, how blameless, are we Americans?

During the Cold War, the United States regularly dumped over regimes we believed imperiled our cause — Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in the 1960s. After the Cold War, the United States was a major mover in the “color revolutions” that changed regimes in Ukraine and Georgia.

According to Victoria Nuland, then of the State Department, now back again, $5 billion was pumped in to effect the overthrow of the democratically elected pro-Russian regime in Kiev and its replacement by a pro-American one.

This was the triggering event that caused Vladimir Putin to annex Crimea to secure his country’s Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol.

Consider the reaction in this capital to the arrest and imprisonment of dissident Alexei Navalny, following his return from Germany, where he had been treated for chemical poisoning, allegedly by Putin’s security services.

In an editorial, “Nothing But a Poisoner,” The Washington Post thundered:

“Western governments should be doing what they can to help this unprecedented challenge to Mr. Putin’s autocracy survive and grow…

“Mr. Putin has dedicated himself to exploiting the weaknesses in democratic systems. Now is the time to return the favor.”

Consider what the Post is calling for here:

The U.S. and NATO nations should openly side with protesters in Russia’s cities whose goal is the overthrow of Putin and of the internationally recognized government of Russia.

How, one wonders, would Americans react if Putin openly urged worldwide support for the “Stop the Steal” mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election?

Though Americans are divided over racial, cultural, social and moral issues, liberal interventionists still talk of our “universal values” that represent the future toward which all nations should aspire. Among these are the values of democracy as practiced in the United States.

These are the standards by which other nations are to be judged. And nations that do not conform to these standards are candidates for U.S. interference in their affairs. Ours is an ideological imperialism of a rare order.

Where did we Americans acquire the right to intervene in the internal affairs of nations — be they autocracies, monarchies or republics — that do not threaten or attack us?

When we have intervened in these nations militarily, disaster has most often been the result. It was partly because the regimes of Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen did not comport to our ideas of good governance that we went in militarily to change them. Result: millions of dead, wounded and displaced Arabs and Muslims all across the Middle East. A historic calamity.

When the Arab Spring arose, we embraced it. The democratic revolution was here! And what happened in the largest Arab nation that responded as we insisted, Egypt?

An ally of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak, was ousted. The Muslim Brotherhood was voted into power. It was replaced a year later by a new general, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, a man more ruthless than Mubarak.

This week, the generals in Myanmar (Burma) ousted the civilian leadership of the country and assumed full power. President Joe Biden reacted reflexively, calling it a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy.”

“In a democracy,” said Biden, “force should never seek to override the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election.”

Derek Mitchell of the National Democratic Institute, a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy, explained: “Democracy is one of the pillars of the Biden Administration’s foreign policy agenda. They recognize they have to address this pretty seriously. The question is what to do.”

Actually, the larger question, the basic question is why the internal affairs of Burma, a nation 10,000 miles from the United States, are the business of the United States.

The post-Cold War world, where America stood in moral judgment of the democracy credentials of all other nations, and acted against those that did not sufficiently conform, is coming to an end.

And if we do not give up this ideological imperialism, that end, especially where Russia and China are concerned, could come sudden and soon.

The Best of Patrick J. Buchanan Patrick J. Buchanan is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of Where the Right Went Wrong, and Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. His latest book is Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever See his website.

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Concern Troll Is Concerned, Elbe Day Edition – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on April 27, 2020

https://original.antiwar.com/thomas-knapp/2020/04/26/concern-troll-is-concerned-elbe-day-edition/

On April 25, 2020, US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement commemorating the 75th anniversary of “Elbe Day” – the day, presaging the end of World War 2 in Europe, when Russian and US troops met near the German towns of Strehla and Torgau.

The Wall Street Journal reports that this congenial interaction between the two presidents “stirs concern among” members of Congress and officials at the US Departments of State and Defense.

What’s inherently controversial about the Trump/Putin statement that wasn’t controversial about the similar 65th anniversary message from Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev?

The supposed concern appears to have little, if anything, to do with actual foreign policy matters.

Yes, the US is still at odds with Russia on various issues – Russian support for new states which seceded from Ukraine after a US-backed coup in that country, and Russian support for Syria’s government against US-backed rebels, to name two.

But it’s not like US-Russian relations were particularly great in 2010, either. The Obama-Medvedev statement came less than two years after Russian troops kicked US-allied Georgian invaders out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and after Medvedev’s announcement that he intended to respond in kind to proposed US missile deployments in Poland.

The supposed “concern” seems to be that playing nice with Russia might undermine “stern messages” the US government keeps sending to the Russian government in the form of sanctions.

What we’re seeing here is not “concern,” but “concern trolling”: Per Oxford Dictionaries, “the action or practice of disingenuously expressing concern about an issue in order to undermine or derail genuine discussion.”

There’s a deep divide within the US political establishment at the moment over whether the next US Cold War should pit Americans against Russia or China. Iran and Venezuela are dark horse contenders, but ever since the 2003 Iraq fiasco it’s become a lot more difficult to portray smaller regional players as convincing “threats.”

The growing Trump faux-populist wing of the establishment prefers China, at least for the moment, because the faux-populists already have a trade war going with the Chinese, and because they have a temporary “COVID-19 as a manifestation of the Yellow Peril” gravy train of nonsense they can hitch a ride on.

Establishment Democrats and Republicans prefer Russia as perpetual Enemy of the Week because they’re conservative. It’s been Russia most of the time since shortly after that first Elbe Day. Why change horses in mid-saber-rattle? They’re concern trolling Trump because he’s not reading from their script (it doesn’t help that he beat their favored 2016 presidential candidate, another thing they blame on Russia).

So, why not eschew Cold War altogether, relax, and enjoy a long overdue “peace dividend?”

Unfortunately, that’s not one of the options that the “all options are on the table” crowd of “serious people” (read: “Concern trolls whose political and financial interests require constant Cold War”) are willing to even put on said table.

Thanks to Cold War concern trolls, world peace remains further away today than it got in April 1945.

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Trump is right about who’s to blame for bad relations with Russia

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

The Chinese and Russians (and most of the rest of the world) simply cannot process the notion that the United States is run by clueless amateurs who stumble from one half-baked initiative to another, with no overall plan (except, of course, to persuade the Persians to become America’s friends rather than enemies).

People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”

http://www.atimes.com/article/trump-is-right-about-whos-to-blame-for-bad-relations-with-russia/

By DAVID P. GOLDMAN

July 17, 2018

US President Donald Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming Washington for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct…

Full disclosure: I was a card-carrying member of the neoconservative cabal that planned to bring Western-style democracy and free markets to Russia after the fall of Communism. As chief economist for the supply-side consulting firm Polyconomics, I got an appointment as an adviser to Boris Yeltsin’s finance ministry and made several trips to Moscow.

Of course, the finance ministry really was a family office for Yeltsin’s oligarch friends, who were too busy stealing Russia’s economy to listen to advice. The experience cured me of the neoconservative delusion that democracy and free markets are the natural order of things.

Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the US elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics…

The Maidan coup was the second American attempt to install a Ukrainian government hostile to Moscow; the first occurred in 2004, when Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State rather than Hillary Clinton. As I wrote in Asia Times a decade ago, “On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”

American efforts to promote a democratic opposition to Putin have failed miserably, and as John Lloyd wrote recently at Reuters, the Russian president remains genuinely popular. This remains a source of perpetual frustration for the neoconservatives, who cannot fathom why dictatorships still exist…

Thanks to President Trump, Russia (as well as China) now understands that America’s intervention in Iraq was not a deliberate effort to destabilize the region, and that its support for Sunni jihadists in Syria was not a deliberate effort to create an Islamist monster with which to destabilize Russia. Under the headline “They’ll never believe we’re that stupid,” I wrote in May 2015:

“Beijing and Moscow made up their minds some time ago that the United States had deliberately unleashed chaos on the Levant as part of a malevolent plan of some kind. The Chinese and Russians (and most of the rest of the world) simply cannot process the notion that the United States is run by clueless amateurs who stumble from one half-baked initiative to another, with no overall plan (except, of course, to persuade the Persians to become America’s friends rather than enemies).

Incompetence has consequences. One of the consequences will be that our competitors and adversaries will take us for knaves instead of fools, or even worse, will recognize that we are fools after all.”

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Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/russia-strikes-back-where-it-hurts-american-oil/

Russia Strikes Back Where It Hurts: American Oil

Amid mounting sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow’s economy, Putin seems resolved to do the same to Trump’s re-election.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are engaged in an oil price war that has sent shockwaves around the world, causing the price of oil to tumble and threatening the financial stability, and even viability, of major international oil companies.

On the surface, this conflict appears to be a fight between two of the world’s largest producers of oil over market share. This may, in fact, be the motive driving Saudi Arabia, which reacted to Russia’s refusal to reduce its level of oil production by slashing the price it charged per barrel of oil and threatening to increase its oil production, thereby flooding the global market with cheap oil in an effort to attract customers away from competitors.

Russia’s motives appear to be far different—its target isn’t Saudi Arabia, but rather American shale oil. After absorbing American sanctions that targeted the Russian energy sector, and working with global partners (including Saudi Arabia) to keep oil prices stable by reducing oil production even as the United States increased the amount of shale oil it sold on the world market, Russia had had enough. The advent of the Coronavirus global pandemic had significantly reduced the demand for oil around the world, stressing the American shale producers. Russia had been preparing for the eventuality of oil-based economic warfare with the United States. With U.S. shale producers knocked back on their heels, Russia viewed the time as being ripe to strike back. Russia’s goal is simple: to make American shale oil producers “share the pain”.

The United States has been slapping sanctions on Russia for more than six years, ever since Russia took control (and later annexed) the Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The first sanctions were issued on March 6, 2014, through Executive Order 13660, targeting “persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”

The most recent round of sanctions was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 18, 2020, by sanctioning Rosneft Trading S.A., a Swiss-incorporated, Russian-owned oil brokerage firm, for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector. The U.S. also recently targeted the Russian Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream gas pipeline projects.

Russia had been signaling its displeasure over U.S. sanctions from the very beginning. In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries, threatening the “the long-term national interests of the U.S. government and people.” Russia opted to ride out U.S. sanctions, in hopes that there might be a change of administrations following the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he hoped the U.S. might elect someone whose policies would be more friendly toward Russia, and that once the field of candidates narrowed down to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Putin favored Trump.

“Yes, I did,” Putin remarked after the election, during a joint press conference with President Trump following a summit in Helsinki in July 2018. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Putin’s comments only reinforced the opinions of those who embraced allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as fact and concluded that Putin had some sort of hold over Trump. Trump’s continuous praise of Putin’s leadership style only reinforced these concerns.

Even before he was inaugurated, Trump singled out Putin’s refusal to respond in kind to President Obama’s levying of sanctions based upon the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump Tweeted. Trump viewed the Obama sanctions as an effort to sabotage any chance of a Trump administration repairing relations with Russia, and interpreted Putin’s refusal to engage, despite being pressured to do so by the Russian Parliament and Foreign Ministry, as a recognition of the same.

This sense of providing political space in the face of domestic pressure worked both ways. In January 2018, Putin tried to shield his relationship with President Trump by calling the release of a list containing some 200 names of persons close to the Russian government by the U.S. Treasury Department as a hostile and “stupid” move.

“Ordinary Russian citizens, employees and entire industries are behind each of those people and companies,” Putin remarked. “So all 146 million people have essentially been put on this list. What is the point of this? I don’t understand.”

From the Russian perspective, the list highlighted the reality that the U.S. viewed the entire Russian government as an enemy and is a byproduct of the “political paranoia” on the part of U.S. lawmakers. The consequences of this, senior Russian officials warned, “will be toxic and undermine prospects for cooperation for years ahead.”

While President Trump entered office fully intending to “get along with Russia,”  including the possibility of relaxing the Obama-era sanctions, the reality of U.S.-Russian relations, especially as viewed from Congress, has been the strengthening of the Obama sanctions regime. These sanctions, strengthened over time by new measures signed off by Trump, have had a negative impact on the Russian economy, slowing growth and driving away foreign investment.

While Putin continued to show constraint in the face of these mounting sanctions, the recent targeting of Russia’s energy sector represented a bridge too far. When Saudi pressure to cut oil production rates coincided with a global reduction in the demand for oil brought on by the Coronavirus crisis, Russia struck.

The timing of the Russian action is curious, especially given the amount of speculation that there was some sort of personal relationship between Trump and Putin that the Russian leader sought to preserve and carry over into a potential second term. But Putin had, for some time now, been signaling that his patience with Trump had run its course. When speaking to the press in June 2019 about the state of U.S.-Russian relations, Putin noted that “They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,” adding that “The current [i.e., Trump] administration has approved, in my opinion, several dozen decisions on sanctions against Russia in recent years.”

By launching an oil price war on the eve of the American Presidential campaign season, Putin has sent as strong a signal as possible that he no longer views Trump as an asset, if in fact he ever did. Putin had hoped Trump could usher in positive change in the trajectory of relations between the two nations; this clearly had not happened. Instead, in the words of close Putin ally Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the U.S. was using its considerable energy resources as a political weapon, ushering in an era of “power colonialism” that sought to expand U.S. oil production and market share at the expense of other nations.

From Russia’s perspective, the growth in U.S. oil production—which doubled in output from 2011 until 2019—and the emergence of the U.S. as a net exporter of oil, was directly linked to the suppression of oil export capability in nations such as Venezuela and Iran through the imposition of sanctions. While this could be tolerated when the target was a third party, once the U.S. set its sanctioning practices on Russian energy, the die was cast.

If the goal of the Russian-driven price war is to make U.S. shale companies “share the pain,” they have already succeeded. A similar price war, initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2014 for the express purpose of suppressing U.S. shale oil production, failed, but only because investors were willing to prop up the stricken shale producers with massive loans and infusion of capital. For shale oil producers, who use an expensive methodology of extraction known as “fracking,” to be economically viable, the breakeven price of oil per barrel needs to be between $40 and $60 dollars. This was the price range the Saudi’s were hoping to sustain when they proposed the cuts in oil production that Russia rejected.

The U.S. shale oil producers, saddled by massive debt and high operational expenses, will suffer greatly in any sustained oil price war. Already, with the price of oil down to below $35 per barrel, there is talk of bankruptcy and massive job layoffs—none of which bode well for Trump in the coming election.

It’s clear that Russia has no intention of backing off anytime soon.  According to the Russian Finance Ministry, said on Russia could weather oil prices of $25-30 per barrel for between six and ten years. One thing is for certain—U.S. shale oil companies cannot.

In a sign that the Trump administration might be waking up to the reality of the predicament it faces, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin quietly met with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov. According to a read out from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two discussed economic sanctions, the Venezuelan economy, and the potential for “trade and investment.” Mnuchin, the Russians noted, emphasized the “importance of orderly energy markets.”

Russia is unlikely to fold anytime soon. As Admiral Josh Painter, a character in Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” famously said, “Russians don’t take a dump without a plan.”

Russia didn’t enter its current course of action on a whim. Its goals are clearly stated—to defeat U.S. shale oil—and the costs of this effort, both economically and politically (up to and including having Trump lose the 2020 Presidential election) have all been calculated and considered in advance. The Russian Bear can only be toyed with for so long without generating a response. We now know what that response is; when the Empire strikes back, it hits hard.

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How Turkey Lost a Battle of Wills, and Force, to Russia  | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2020

Putin seems to be able to keep things more under control in his back yard when there is no one putting obstacles in his path.

Some think he is today’s leading statesman.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-turkey-lost-a-battle-of-wills-and-force-to-russia/

Erdogan talked tough, but in the end had to surrender gains to Moscow and Damascus.

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands at the end of a joint news conference following an inter-delegation meeting at Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on March 5, 2020. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

When the history of the Syrian conflict is written, the fighting that took place between the Syrian Army and its allies on the one side, and the Turkish military and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels on the other, from early February through early March 2020 in and around the Syrian town of Saraqib, will go down as one of the decisive encounters of that war.

Representing more than a clash of arms between the Syrian and Turkish militaries, the Battle for Saraqib was a test of political will between Turkish President Recep Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. History will show Turkey lost on both accounts.

The Battle for Saraqib had its roots in fighting that began back in December 2019, in the form of an offensive carried out by the Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, against pro-Turkish opposition forces in and around Idlib province. The Syrian-Russian offensive represented the collapse of the so-called Sochi Agreement of September 17, 2018, which established what were known as “de-escalation zones” separating the Syrian Army from anti-government rebel forces in Idlib. As part of the Sochi Agreement, Turkey set up a dozen “observation posts”—in reality, fortified compounds housing several hundred troops and their equipment—throughout the Idlib de-escalation zone.

In exchange for legitimizing the existence of fortified Turkish observation posts, the Sochi Agreement mandated specific actions on Turkey’s part, including overseeing the establishment of a “demilitarized zone” within the de-escalation zone where tanks, artillery and multiple rocket launchers were to be excluded, and from which all “radical terrorist groups” would be removed by October 15, 2018. Moreover, Turkey was responsible for restoring transit traffic on two strategic highways linking the city of Aleppo with Latakia (the M4 highway) and Damascus (the M5 highway.)

While Turkey established its fortified observation posts, it failed to live up to any of its commitments under the Sochi Agreement—no demilitarized zones were created, no heavy equipment evacuated, and no “radical terrorist groups” removed from the de-escalation zone. This last point was of particular note, since the most prominent of these “radical terrorist groups”—Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS—was also the largest and most effective of the anti-Assad groups operating in Idlib province.

The objective of the December 2019 Syrian military offensive was to achieve through force of arms what Turkey had failed to do—restore transit traffic capability for both the M4 and M5 highways and, in doing so, evict HTS and other anti-Assad rebel groups from the de-escalation zones. By early February 2020 the Syrian Army had, through its advances, surrounded a number of Turkish observation posts, putting Turkey in the politically difficult situation of sitting and watching while the anti-Assad forces it had helped create, train and equip were being defeated on the field of battle.

Turkey sought to blunt the Syrian advance on Feb. 3, by reinforcing its observation post located near the strategic town of Saraqib, which overlooked the juncture of the M4 and M5 highways. Whomever controlled Saraqib likewise controlled both highways. When a large Turkish military convoy heading toward Saraqib was brought under Syrian artillery fire, killing five Turkish soldiers and three Turkish civilian contractors, Turkey responded by shelling Syrian Army positions, killing scores of Syrian soldiers. This was the opening round of what would become the Battle for Saraqib and represented the first large-scale combat between the Syrian and Turkish militaries since the Syrian crisis began in 2011.

The Syrian attack on the Turkish Army in Idlib was a red line for President Erdogan, who in a statement made before Turkish parliamentarians on Feb. 5, warned that “if the Syrian regime will not retreat from Turkish observation posts in Idlib in February, Turkey itself will be obliged to make this happen.” Erdogan backed up his rhetoric by deploying tens of thousands of Turkish troops, backed up by armor and artillery, to its border with Syria, while continuing to dispatch reinforcements to its beleaguered observation posts inside Idlib.

On Feb. 6, the Syrian Army captured Saraqib. Four days later, on Feb. 10, Turkish-backed rebels, backed by Turkish artillery, launched a counterattack against Syrian Army positions around Saraqib, which was beaten back by heavy Syrian artillery fire. In the process, the Turkish observation near the village of Taftanaz was hit by Syrian shells, killing five Turkish soldiers and wounding five others. The Turks responded by striking Syrian Army positions throughout Idlib province with sustained artillery and rocket fire.

Speaking to Turkish parliamentarians after the attack on Taftanaz, Erdogan declared that “we will strike regime forces everywhere from now on regardless of the Sochi deal if any tiny bit of harm comes to our soldiers at observation posts or elsewhere,” adding that“We are determined to push back (regime forces) behind the borders of the Sochi deal by the end of February.”

The capture of Saraqib and the vital M4-M5 highway juncture allowed the Syrian Army to seize control of the entire M5 highway for the first time since 2012. The Syrian Army then proceeded to push west, toward the city of Idlib, closing to within eight miles of the provincial capital. In order to blunt the Syrian advances, Turkey deployed hundreds of Special Forces who integrated into the ranks of the anti-regime units, helping coordinate their attacks with Turkish artillery and rocket supporting fires. Starting Feb. 16, the rebel fighters, supported by Turkish Special Forces, launched a relentless attack against Syrian Army positions in and around the village of Nayrab, located mid-way between Idlib and Saraqib. Nayrab eventually fell on the night of Feb. 24. The cost, however, was high—hundreds of rebel fighters were killed, along with two Turkish soldiers.

The Turks and their rebel allies then turned their sights on Saraqib itself, pushing out of Nayrab and securing a foothold in Saraqib’s eastern suburbs and cutting the M5 highway in several locations. The Syrian Army had shifted most of its offensive power to the southwest, where they were advancing toward the M4 highway. The Syrians called in fighters from Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militias to help stabilize the Saraqib front. The Turkish military, in an effort to break up Russian and Syrian aerial attacks, began employing man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), firing more than 15. While none of these hit their targets, they did cause the Russians and Syrian to abort their attacks and leave the area.

In retaliation for the Turkish employment of MANPADS, Russia and Syrian aircraft struck a Turkish mechanized battalion operating in southern Idlib on Feb. 27, killing more than 33 Turkish soldiers, and wounding some 60 more. This attack sent shock waves through Turkey, with Erdogan threatening to punish all parties responsible, including the Russians (who denied their involvement in the attack, despite evidence to the contrary.)

On March 1 President Erdogan ordered Turkish forces to carry out a general offensive in Idlib, named Operation Spring Shield, intended to drive Syria and its allies back to the positions they held at the time of the Sochi Agreement in September 2018. The combined Turkish-rebel offensive immediately stalled in the face of steadfast Syrian resistance, backed by Russian air strikes. The Syrian Army recaptured Saraqib and took control of the entire M5 highway, reversing the earlier Turkish gains.

By March 4, the situation facing the Turkish-backed rebel fighters was so dire that they gave up all pretense of independent operations, and instead intermixed themselves within the Turkish outposts to avoid being targeted by the Russian Air Force. Erdogan, recognizing that the game was up, flew to Moscow on March 5 for an emergency summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where they negotiated the terms of a new ceasefire agreement.

The Moscow Summit was a bitter pill for Erdogan to swallow. Although formulated as an “additional protocol” to the existing September 2018 Sochi Agreement, the deal struck between Erdogan and Putin in Moscow was very much a document of surrender for the Turks. His fiery rhetoric and threats to push the Syrian Army and its allies out of Idlib the contrary, Erdogan was compelled to accept a new “de-escalation” zone defined by the frontlines as they stood on March 6.

Moreover, the Turks were now compelled to share enforcement and monitoring of a 12-kilometer “demilitarized zone” straddling the M4 highway with Russian military patrols. Lastly, adding insult to injury, the Turks were denied a no-fly zone over Idlib, ceding control of the air to the Russian Air Force, while still being required to disarm and remove all persons belonging to terrorist organizations, which in this case meant HTS, the most numerous and effective of the anti-Assad rebel groups. In short, Russia secured for Syria all its hard-won victories, while ceding nothing to Turkey save a face-saving ceasefire.

For Syria and Russia, the Battle of Saraqib was about restoring Syrian sovereignty over the totality of Syrian territory; for Turkey, it was about securing lasting Turkish control and influence over the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. Turkey lost on both accounts. While Turkey has been allowed to maintain its chain of fortified “observation posts”, the vast majority of these are surrounded by the Syrian Army, and of no military value.

Moreover, the dismal performance of the Turkish Army and its anti-Assad allies against the Syrian Army and its allies, including the Russian Air Force, in the Idlib campaign as a whole, and the Battle of Saraqib in particular, have put to rest any thoughts Erdogan might have retained about imposing Turkey’s will on either Damascus or Moscow; Turkey now knows that there will not be a Turkish military solution to the problem of Idlib.

 

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