Speaking on the telephone last week to 'W the Intelligence Insider' from his missile silo bunker in the great American Pacific Northwest, I noted the remarkable speed at which Turkey's neo-Ottoman Sultan president turned dictator was pivoting towards Russia and the Eurasian alliance that includes China and Iran. The Russia Analyst said this surely wasn't due to any sort of love lost between Putin and Erdogan personally, as the two men plan to meet in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi on August 9, but rather due to pure realpolitik. Though it should also be said here, that Moscow and Ankara aren't wasting any time in terms of restoring the tourist and construction if not agricultural trade between the two countries, as well as through cultural and sporting initiatives. On August 31, the soccer stadium in the once popular with Russian tourists Mediterranean city of Antalya will host a friendly match between the Russian and Turkish national soccer teams.
Yet as we said on the phone with 'W' pro-Kremlin and Russian nationalist media like the Alexandr Dugin-led think tank Katehon are embracing and promoting Ankara's Narrative that the failed mid-July coup d'etat against Erdogan was a U.S. operation run by Turkey's NATO rapid reaction force commanders. Whatever one thinks of the Sultan engaging in a purge that would make the infamously paranoid Joseph Stalin proud or his arrests of suspected coup plotters' relatives, many individuals in the alternative media who do not approve of Erdogan's Islamization of Turkish society or suppression of the press such as former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds or James Corbett concur that Washington was ultimately behind the aborted putsch.
It has reached the point where Erdogan is ranting that Washington, by which he meant Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, is far more concerned about the fate of coup plotters who were its 'interlocutors' than the hundreds of people dead because of the coup. It has also reached the point where the base commander at Incirlik was probably relieved this past weekend to know that it was only 7,000 Turkish cops massing outside the base gate and not an angry mob of Erdogan supporters burning American flags and chanting "Allahu Akbar, terrorist USA go home".
During our conversation 'W' laughed and said that of course Putin wants to remove Turkey as a potential base for a last desperate bid by Washington to forcefully intervene against the Assad government in Syria. To have the opportunity to not necessarily turn Turkey into a Russian ally but at least make the second largest military in NATO neutral towards Russia is one no shrewd Kremlin leader, least of all one as cunning as Putin, would pass up.
As John Helmer writes in the extensive quote from his website Dances With Bears we share below, Turkey's Bosporus Straits have been an abiding Russian strategic interest for 300 years dating back to the Tsars Peter and his successor Catherine the Great, who conquered Crimea from the Ottoman-allied Tatars. Neutralizing Turkey not only opens the door to the resumption of the Turkstream gas pipeline being constructed to Greece via Thrace, it also removes the most vital piece of NATO's Black Sea strategy.
If the Turks are exercising with rather than simulating battles against Russia's Black Sea Fleet, any NATO plan to militarize that narrow body of water against Moscow's resurgent Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea lies in tatters. A NATO 'Black Sea fleet' without the Turkish Navy consisting of old Soviet-built Ukrainian, and Romanian rust buckets is a joke (Bulgaria's PM has already bowed to the Russophilia of Bulgaria's Orthodox Christian majority, and said no to his country joining). But the most important short term Russian consideration is this: even if the neocons succeed in electing Hillary Clinton president of the United States, removing Incirlik or other Turkish air bases from the picture effectively makes even a limited, Russian base-skirting U.S. No Fly Zone over Syria infeasible if not logistically prohibitive.
With Turkey opting out (as it did from the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq), Jordan is unlikely to risk greater spillover of the jihadists in Syria onto its own territory by giving Washington the green light to use its bases for strikes on Assad's troops. Meaning only bases in NATO European countries (which does not include the Greek or Turkish occupied portions of Cyprus) or in the Persian Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait would be available to CENTCOM. But what if the Iranian-backed Iraqi government in Baghdad refuses to open its airspace to U.S. planes attacking Assad government targets? What if it went even further than saying 'no' and actually threatened U.S. jets with Iraq's American supplied F-16s or Russian/Iranian supplied SAMs if they violated Iraq's air space while bombing Syrian troops? Fourteen years after the devastating 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, such a development -- being effectively blocked by the government Washington installed in Baghdad -- would be incredibly ironic.
True, the U.S. could use carrier aviation based in the Mediterranean to launch air strikes on Assad government forces as Hillary's prospective Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas has advocated, but U.S. carriers in the eastern Med are vulnerable to Russian made Syrian or even Iranian anti-ship subsonic and supersonic missiles. Furthermore, even if Russia's powerful S400 air defense system or short range Pantsir systems do not engage the American jets, 'Syrian' manned and Syrian flagged BUKs or Iran's newly delivered Russian-made S300 system could deploy under Russian military protection to Damascus, government held Aleppo or other parts of the country. Meaning US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets would be shot down and the Russians would likely be in contact with their American counterparts about the downed U.S. pilots in Syrian or Hezbollah hands. Such a scenario playing out in the minds of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may lead them to nearly revolt against a POTUS Hillary! air war on Assad, just as Gen. Martin Dempsey undermined CINC Obama's plans for strikes on the Syrian Arab Army in August 2013.
In short, as the Guerrilla Economist likes to say, checkmate Putin -- again. Removing Turkey from the war against Assad's government is coffin nails to the neocons plans to confront Russia in Syria and to carve out a U.S. 'moderate rebel' held Salafi enclave from the war torn Levantine nation. The pending downfall of the 'moderate' jihadis who are preventing civilians from fleeing eastern Aleppo and using them as human shields from Russian bombs is further proof that Russia, Iran and Damascus are accelerating their offensives against Washington's pet Salafists. The Eurasian axis wants to deny the Americans Bosnia-style enclaves from which they could launch future jihadist offensives against Assad or Russian forces stationed in the country once their Saudi-bankrolled champion Hillary! takes office.
Even if the hybrid war against Moscow and Beijing can be shifted from Syria where Washington has failed miserably to other theaters of operations like Ukraine or the South China Sea, Turkey's turn against NATO and towards hardline Islamist authoritarianism presents the Alliance with a long term headache. Either NATO kicks Turkey out of the Alliance (a briar patch many Turkish Eurasianists and Erdogan loyalists would be happy to be thrown into, as they would rush to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization instead) or NATO's rhetoric about every member being a democracy and freedom gets undermined by the Sultan's huge purge. Here's how Cato Institute foreign policy libertarian and longtime NATO critic Ted Galen Carpenter puts it:
Everyone working for NATO wants to think of and portray themselves as the good guys, rather than ruthless pragmatists or authoritarians in the mold of Erdogan. But that job becomes harder when Hungarian and German if not Polish or Balt journalists are asking the Alliance's spokesmen and women questions about what exactly Erdogan would have to do domestically to be kicked out of the bloc or to see Turkish membership suspended. More shoot to kill enforced curfew lock downs and collective punishments of Kurdish civilians in reprisals for PKK attacks that are killing a dozen Turkish soldiers and policemen per week? More torture of jailed soldiers and 'confessions' beaten out of commanders? Public executions of coup plotters both real and imagined? Jailing the teenage children or wives of the 'traitors' buried in the 'traitors cemetaries' of Istanbul?
What about European Union, which cannot accept as a member any state that practices the death penalty? When does the EU reach the point at which it sanctions Turkey for the kind of human rights abuses and mass arrests that Putin's critics imagine the Russian leader engages in? Sooner or later the double standard and the EU's weakness and constantly being under the threat of Turkish blackmail via the Muslim refugee spigot becomes obvious to all but the most fanatical and detached from reality Atlanticists and EUrocrats. At which point NATO will either have to admit that it's content to keep a dictatorship in the fold -- because southern flank against 'Russian aggression'! -- or cut bait and 'suspend' Turkish membership in the Atlanticist Pact for public relations and geopolitical (read: getting too close to Russia) reasons.
Either way, the status quo in U.S./EU-Turkish relations is unsustainable and there won't be a return to business as usual now that Erdogan and his loyalists have all but accused the U.S. military at Incirlik and the CIA direct involvement in the failed coup. The Guerrilla Economist speaking on the July 28, 2016 "Mornings with V" program was and is correct. The failed, incompetently executed coup is not only an example of Washington's minions losing their grip on events and once superb skills at overthrowing democratically elected governments -- it's also the most important geopolitical development of July if not this year, sealing as it does the fate of most Syrian jihadis if Turkey abandons them. And this is also a textbook example for future historians of Washington's loss becoming Moscow's gain: