Will Turkey Abandon NATO? - August, 2008

Naturally, one of the greatest fears of an Armenian is the emergence of a Turkish-Russian alliance. With EU membership looking impossible to obtain and with US/Israel supporting a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, Ankara may begin looking north to Moscow. Some of Ankara's statements during the brief but bloody Russia-Georgia war, which could easily be interpreted as pro-Russian were curious, especially in the light of the fact that Georgia and Turkey have had very good relations and Ankara has supported the anti-Russian insurgency in Chechnya. The troubling thing for me as an Armenian is that Ankara has much more to offer Moscow than our tiny, landlocked and impoverished Armenia. With that said, a serious alliance between Russia-Turkey is not going to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future. Economically and politically, Turkey is still greatly dependent on the West for survival. The Western elite and Israelis/Jews still have great influence over Turkish power brokers, there is still the great potential of Islamic problems in Turkey. Moreover, Turkey and Russia have been historic competitors for regional resources and assets, and they have a very long and bloody history of wars between them. However, even if such an alliance somehow did evolve that would not necessarily mean the end of Armenia. Strategically, Moscow would still need a viable Armenia in the Caucasus as a check valve against potential Turkish or Islamic expansion.


Arevordi

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Russia-Georgia Conflict Puts Turkey in Vulnerable Position


August, 2008

NATO-member Turkey is treading a fine line between its loyalty to the alliance and its economic interests in its Black Sea neighbor Russia, with some fearing Ankara could find itself at the frontline of a new Cold War. Evidence of Turkey's dilemma in the standoff between the West and Russia over its action against Georgia was on display last week, when two U.S. ships sailed through the Istanbul Strait on their way to the Black Sea. Russia has accused the West of stirring tensions with a NATO naval build-up in the Black Sea following a brief war between Russia and Georgia. A close U.S. ally which aspires to join the European Union, Turkey is the passage way to the sea. During the Cold War, Turkey was NATO's southern flank, an isolated bulwark on Soviet frontiers. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has become Turkey's top trade partner, supplying the majority of Turkey's energy needs.

"(Current tensions) put Turkey in a very tight spot because it is under pressure from Russia and its Western allies," said Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. "Turkey is again a frontline state like in the Cold War, but the difference now is that its dependency on Russia is much bigger," he said. Turkey fears it is already feeling signs of a possible fallout with Moscow affecting their $38 billion trade. Ankara has protested to Russia over trade restrictions as 10,000 Turkish trucks are being held at various Russian border crossings. Russia says inspections on Turkish trucks are due to a new customs law, but Turkish officials see darker motives. Turkish businesses are concerned Turkey could lose $3 billion in the short term if the delays continue, and Turkey's Foreign Trade Minister responded to the move in harsh terms. "If you harass us, we will you," Turkish newspapers reported Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen as telling Russian officials.

ENERGY CARD

Turkey, which neighbors Georgia, has kept a low profile since the outbreak of a brief war between Moscow and Tbilisi earlier this month. Unlike its Western allies, it has refrained from condemning Russian actions. But NATO members may want a more strident supporter on its eastern frontline. "(Turkey) must act like a NATO member ... if it wants its place in Trans-Atlantic relations. It became a member years ago, and that means Turkey has to support the steps that NATO takes," a high-level U.S. official was quoted by Sabah daily as saying.

Analysts have also said the United States may want Turkey to change the terms of the Montreux Convention, which regulates shipping traffic through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. Turkey's dependence on Russian gas and coal, however, may make it difficult for Ankara to take those steps. Last year Russia provided more than 60 percent of Turkey's imported natural gas through two pipelines as well as 56.4 percent of Turkey's thermal coal, used in the country's power and booming construction sectors. Turkey asked Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom to increase its supplies to Turkey after Iran turned off its gas to Turkey to meet its own domestic needs last year. Potential problems with Russian gas or coal supplies would create large problems for Turkey in the winter. "On the pipeline there may arise 'technical problems' which means we have real problems ... that means for industry, for consumers, your economy will be harmed," said energy analyst Necdet Pamir.

Turkey has worked hard since the fall of the Soviet Union to become an energy hub delivering Caspian gas and oil to European markets, and the country often boasts of its important geostrategic position. But if tensions continue to build in the Caucasus, Turkey may not find its position so appealing. "Turkey's geostrategic importance can sometimes be a liability and this case is an example," said Piccolli.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/reute...BrandChannel=0

Will Turkey Abandon NATO?

Will Turkey side with the United States, its NATO ally, and let more U.S. military ships into the Black Sea to assist Georgia? Or will it choose Russia? A Turkish refusal would seriously impair American efforts to support the beleaguered Caucasus republic. Ever since Turkey joined NATO in 1952, it has hoped to never have to make a choice between the alliance and its Russian neighbor to the North. Yet that is precisely the decision before Ankara. If Turkey does not allow the ships through, it will essentially be taking Russia's side. Whether in government or in the military, Turkish officials have for several years been expressing concern about U.S. intentions to "enter" the Black Sea. Even at the height of the Cold War, the Black Sea remained peaceful due to the fact that Turkey and Russia had clearly defined spheres of influence. But littoral countries Romania and Bulgaria have since joined NATO, and Ukraine and Georgia have drawn closer to the Euro-Atlantic alliance. Ankara has expressed nervousness about a potential Russian reaction.

The Turkish mantra goes something like this: "the U.S. wants to expand NATO into the Black Sea -- and as in Iraq, this will create a mess in our neighborhood, leaving us to deal with the consequences once America eventually pulls out. After all, if Russia is agitated, it won't be the Americans that will have to deal with them." Nonetheless, Ankara sided with fellow NATO members in telling Georgia and Ukraine that they would be invited to join the alliance -- albeit without any time frame. But now that Russia has waged war in part over this decision, the Turks will have to pick sides. Deputy chief of the Russian general staff Anatoly Nogoivtsyn already warned Turkey that Russia will hold Turkey responsible if the U.S. ships do not leave the Black Sea. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Ankara on Monday to make clear that Russia means it.

Russia is Turkey's largest trading partner, mostly because of Turkey's dependence on Russian gas. More important, the two countries share what some call the post-imperial stress syndrome: that is, an inability to see former provinces as fellow independent states, and ultimately a wish to recreate old agreements on spheres of influence. When Mr. Putin gave a speech in Munich last year challenging the U.S.-led world order, Turks cheered. The Turkish military even posted it on its Web site. President Abdullah Gül recently suggested that "a new world order should emerge." Turkey joined Russia at the height of its war on Georgia in suggesting a five-party "Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform." In other words, they want to keep the U.S. and the EU at arm's length. Both Russia and Turkey consider Georgia's American-educated president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to be crazy enough to unleash the next world war. In that view Turkey is not so far from the positions of France or Germany -- but even these two countries did not suggest that the Georgians sign up to a new regional arrangement co-chaired by Russia while the Kremlin's air force was bombing Georgian cities.

Two other neighbors -- Azerbaijan and Armenia -- are watching the Turkish-Russian partnership with concern. Azeris remember how the Turks -- their ethnic and religious brethren -- left them to be annexed by the Soviets in the 1920s. Armenians already fear their giant neighbor, who they consider to have committed genocide against them. Neither wants to have to rely on Iran (once again) as a counterbalance to Russia. Oh, and of course, Iran had its own sphere-of-influence arrangements with the Soviets as well. Though Turkey and Iran are historic competitors, Turkey has broken with NATO countries recently by hosting President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on a working visit. As the rest of NATO was preoccupied with the Russian aggression in Georgia, Turkey legitimized the Iranian leader amidst chants in Istanbul of "death to Israel, death to America."

A few days later, Turkey played host to Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide by the rest of NATO -- but not by Russia or Iran, or by the Muslim-majority countries who usually claim to care so much about Muslim lives. Where is Turkey headed? Turkish officials say they are using their trust-based relations with various sides to act as a mediator between various parties in the region: the U.S. and Iran; Israel and Syria; Pakistan and Afghanistan, etc. It may be so. But as more American ships steam toward the Black Sea, a time for choosing has arrived.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1219...googlenews_wsj


In related news:


Russia Warns Turkey on U.S. Ships in Black Sea


Russia said U.S. ships could only stay in the Black Sea for 21 days according to the Montreux Convention, and warned if they do not leave by then Turkey would be responsible. Russia's deputy military chief Anatoly Nogovitsyn said the NATO warships' entrance to the Black Sea is a "serious threat to our security," Hurriyet daily reported on Thursday. He said under the Montreux Convention, signed in 1936 on the status of the Turkish Straits, the warships can only stay in the Black Sea for 21 days. "If the NATO ships continue to stay in the Black Sea after the expiration of 21 day-period, then I would like to remind you that Turkey would be responsible," he added. The U.S. warships are spearheading a humanitarian aid mission to Georgia, a U.S. ally that wants to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Clashes erupted in the Caucasus after Russia responded to Georgia's military operation to regain the control in the breakaway region South Osstia. The U.S. ships are carrying nuclear missiles that can hit Russian targets as far away as St. Petersburg, Nogovitsyn said, according to Hurriyet. Russia has dispatched its own ships to track the U.S. vessels, the newspaper said.

Source:
http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/h...6567.asp?scr=1

Russian Military Bloc Steps Up Military Exercises



Large-scale military exercises within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will be held once every two years and will take account of the military-political situation in the collective security regions, including the Caucasus, the organization's deputy secretary-general, Valeriy Semerikov, told journalists on Saturday [23 August]. "It was decided at a session of the CSTO Defence Ministers' Council to hold large-scale military exercises once every two years. The next exercise, Rubezh [Border or Boundary], which ended yesterday in Armenia, will, thus, be held in 2010. It will certainly be large-scale," Semerikov said. "All the exercises will be held on a bilateral basis and will take account of the situation that exists in the collective security regions, including the Caucasus," he added. In between the large-scale exercises, he said, the CSTO countries will hold smaller-scale exercises, headquarter training sessions and bilateral exercises. The CSTO comprises Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Source: http://groong.usc.edu/news/msg242354.html

Russian Weapons In The Middle East

Three events have come together independently. But they produced an intrigue that has hooked both politicians and media in the Middle East. Here is what happened. First, Moscow hosted MVSV-2008, an international show of weapons and military equipment. Then King Abdullah II of Jordan visited the show, met with designers and producers and had a discussion with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. A few days previously, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had flown in for talks with Dmitry Medvedev. The press and television in Amman, Damascus and Tel Aviv made much of the events, especially the Syrian visit. Israeli media claimed Bashar al-Assad had arrived on a purchasing spree, and his main aim was to buy the Iskander-E tactical missile system, in addition to Pantsyr-S1 and Buk-M2 ground-to-air missile systems and Su-30, MiG-29SMT and MiG-31E fighters. The Iskander missile had been promised to Damascus in 2001, and only a personal request by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to former President Vladimir Putin put a stop to its sale to Syria. But now that Israel has helped to train Georgian commandos and equip the Georgian army that attacked South Ossetia, Moscow is within its rights to "repay the debt" and provide Damascus with the system, the media in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv said.

Yet Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during al-Assad's visit that Moscow "is ready to supply Syria only with defensive weapons, ones that do not upset the balance of strength in the region." This means Syria, as Moscow promised to Tel Aviv, will not get the Iskander system. Regarding ground- and air-based air defense units, including interceptor fighters, they are not considered offensive armaments and are immune from Russian-Israeli agreements. It is another matter that military technical cooperation between Moscow and Damascus needs re-evaluating. Syria owes Russia $3 billion for weapons supplied to it, and this on top of Damascus' $10 billion debt for armaments sold in Soviet times which Moscow forgave, incidentally, for a pledge to spend another $2 billion on arms purchases from Russia. Contracts currently being negotiated include Pantsyr and Buk missile systems, as well as Sukhoi and MiG fighters, but not Iskander missiles. The parties are also discussing the expansion of a Russian naval maintenance base at the Syrian port of Tartus. Any movement of Black Sea Fleet forces from Sevastopol to Syria, as some Middle East publications suggest, is, of course, out of the question. But a supply and maintenance center for warships on missions in the Mediterranean will come in handy for Moscow. In the Soviet era, the Soviet Navy's 5th Mediterranean Squadron made full use of this port.

King Abdullah's visit to Moscow did not produce as much excitement as the trip by Bashar al-Assad to Sochi, perhaps because problems between Jordan and Israel are not as serious as between Tel Aviv and Damascus. Discussions mainly focused on military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Amman, rather than on Middle East issues. This cooperation is now on the rise, Dmitry Medvedev said during the meeting. "Our relations are making good headway, this is our third meeting in six months and that points to the intensity of our contacts and good-neighbor relations," the president said, opening the discussion. "Trade between our countries grows steadily, although both countries would like to see it develop more quickly," Medvedev said. Jordan lives up to these words. In recent years it has bought from Russia two Il-76MF military transport planes worth a combined $100 million, and six light multi-role Ka-226 helicopters (at an estimated cost of $25 million), which will be assembled in Jordan under license. The two countries have even set up a joint venture, Oboronprom Middle East, to assemble 15 to 20 Ka helicopters a year.

Plans are also under way to set up a joint venture for the production of RPG-32 Hashim multi-caliber grenade launchers. The launcher was developed by the Bazalt Moscow State Research and Production Enterprise at the suggestion of Abdullah himself. It is designed to engage armored vehicles and defended gun posts from a distance of up to 700 meters with 72mm and 105mm grenades. It will be produced in quantity both in Russia and in Jordan. Trial specimens have already been sent to Amman and were highly praised. A manufacturing license contract is expected to be signed soon. Jordan has received a special $350 million credit from Russia for this purpose, although the sum is also supposed to cover repairs and upgrading of weapons previously supplied to Amman. Other equipment includes armored personnel carriers, fighting infantry vehicles, Kornet anti-tank missile systems, Igla ground-to-air missiles, and weapons for special operations - reconnaissance, sabotage and protection of the royal palace. King Abdullah is a former commando. He is an arms expert, and his buying of Russia's VSS silent sniper rifles and PSS silent pistols is good publicity for Russian arms-makers. It is not impossible that after his visit to Moscow, Amman will take delivery of Pantsyr-S1 ground-to-air missile systems, which are considered today among the most effective close-range air defense systems.

Russian weapons appeal not only to buyers in the Middle East. On August 23, the Russian president sent a message to President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, raising the matter of military-technical cooperation between the two countries. "Russia is interested above all in trade and economic cooperation between security-related agencies," the Russian leader told his Nicaraguan counterpart. "Military-technical cooperation between us offers a promising future." This means that the military equipment once supplied to Nicaragua by the Soviet Union and which needs repairing, upgrading or replacing could be replaced with more advanced weapons, if Managua is willing. And Managua is willing, as is clear from the close ties that exist between Ortega and Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan leader is very pleased with Russian weapons. The target mentioned at the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, of exporting $8 billion worth of Russian arms supplies in 2008, compared with $6.2 billion in 2007, does not seem too far-fetched.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080826/116285462.html

Iran Backs Russia Over Georgia

Iran has blamed Georgia for its confrontation with Russia and in a reference to Israel and the U.S., urged regional countries to unite against foreign interference. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday Georgia caused the crisis because it miscalculated the reaction to its use of military power in South Ossetia. Speaking earlier on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the conflict would not have taken place had Georgia “not allowed countries from outside the region to interfere in their internal affairs.” Analysts say that wary of U.S. troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has reasons to welcome the reduction of American influence in its northern neighbourhood. Mr. Ahmadinejad further pointed to an Israeli hand in the Caucuses war. Iran’s Fars New Agency, quoting Israeli media reports, said Georgia had commissioned nearly 1,000 military advisers from Israeli security firms to train its armed forces. On Thursday, Mr. Ahmadinejad met Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit. Apart from the developments in Georgia, the leaders discussed the situation arising out of the Iranian nuclear programme. Now, Russia has decided to send a delegation to discuss the completion of the Russian-aided Bushehr atomic power station. The director of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kireinko, is expected to head the visiting delegation on Sunday. Russia’s Ambassador to Iran had said after all tests are concluded by the end of this year, the plant would be operational in early 2009.

Source: http://www.hindu.com/2008/08/31/stor...3155371400.htm

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