Russia; Quo Vadis? - SÜLEYMAN SEYFI ÖĞÜN

Russia; Quo Vadis?

We are talking about the vital point of the Syria issue. The Astana process, which represents rapprochement between Turkey Iran and Russia, has crashed into Idlib and been shaken. In a way, Iran and Russia violated the Astana agreement. More importantly, they took a step that obviously put Turkey in a difficult position. We don’t know how they will restore the process. But we can say that from now on the process has entered a dark, unknown path. There is an issue that needs to be considered: maybe we could expect that Iran, which has been far from carrying out reliable policies, took such steps; but how come Russia took such a step that put Turkey in a difficult position?

If we consider the possible outcomes: what happens if the Assad regime takes control of Idlib? This would mean Russia maximizing its influence over the future of the Eastern Mediterranean region. What would Russia’s dominance in warm waters mean for the U.S. and other Western countries if the hydrocarbon reserves are as rich as it is claimed to be and has not been shared yet? How does the alliance formed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Southern Cyprus, and Israel, which are under the guidance of the U.S., perceive Russia’s dominance in the Levant?

One can understand that the while suffering from heavy sanctions, Russia’s quest for domination in the Eastern Mediterranean does not exactly correspond to an economic expectation. Economically, it is clear that GAZPROM is not the focus here, it is rather ARAMCO, which has been redesigned, at the center. This economic presence is obviously targeting Europe and China which both have a huge energy demand. In that case, what is Russia’s plan here?

Russia makes its presence felt thanks to the energy she is selling Europe and China. First and foremost, Russia wants to maintain this unique position. This also seems advantageous with regards to the costs. Turkey is trying to intensify the current advantageous position it has through the energy lines passing through the country. Hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean constitute a rival setting to this advantageous position. Russia’s presence in the region is becoming one that aims to destabilize the rival entities in this geography. So, although the discourse being used suggests that it wants to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, I don’t think that is the case. I think an unstable Syria and even an unstable Iraq is the priority for Russia. Russia’s continuous destabilizing presence in Syria is an answer to the destabilizing factors it was exposed to in Ukraine and Crimea. The thing is: how long the U.S. will continue to tolerate Russia’s control over the region around Damascus, Hama, and Homs? Even if there is a deep, secret agreement reached between the two powers as some claim, based on the negotiations carried out in Vietnam, it is not predictable how long they will be able to stick to it. In my opinion, Russia’s strategic and military presence in Syria is not acceptable at all for the U.S., which plans for an unrivaled world domination in the medium and long run. In this case, a new question arises: what action would the U.S. take against Russia’s position? I think, in the near future, the U.S. will put policies in effect to isolate Russia. The answer to this question lies behind the Idlib issue.

I evaluate the step Russia taken in Idlib as a major mistake. In my opinion, the U.S. allowed Russia to take this step. Here, we may think that the United Kingdom, which stays silent but takes the lead when it comes to anti-Russian policies, was influential. We shouldn’t forget that it is this power that actually controls the Assad regime. Didn’t it all start with Assad’s insistence on Idlib? In my opinion, Russia is being dragged into the mud here. We can also say that the U.S. laying down the condition prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons is meaningful. Thus the U.S. also declares that it is keeps the intervention card in her hands. For one thing, there is a great chance that a war in the region would overstrain Russia, Iran, and Assad. In this respect, they aim to exhaust Russia and Iran or to put them in a chaotic circumstance that would force Assad to carry out massacres. The Russia-Iran rapprochement is directed toward wearing down and convicting Russia, with the Idlib operation tying Russia’s hands as well.

Strained Turkey-U.S. relations are definitely a part of Russia’s policies targeting the destabilization of the Eastern Mediterranean. America has been disregarding Turkey’s concerns and this served the Turkey-Russia rapprochement. As a result, the U.S. has become very uncomfortable. Now, Russia is escalating the Idlib issue and this is having a negative effect on this rapprochement. Perhaps the U.S. enjoys killing many birds with one stone right now.

Moreover, because of a possible migration wave it may trigger, the Idlib operation is also harming Russia-EU relations, which have been relatively restored recently.

Briefly: In my opinion, Russia is taking many wrong steps. We will see what happens.


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