Forty two people are dead and at least 239 injured after three suspected ISIS terrorists opened fire and set off suicide blasts at Istanbul's Attaturk international airport on June 28. The attack came just days after Turkey and Israel formally restored relations that had been damaged since the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formally apologized to Moscow for the death of a Russian SU-24 pilot shot down by the Turks last November. Naturally, given the timing plus the number '50' which came up after the Brexit in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty reappearing in the digits 6+28+16 there has been widespread Turkish as well as Russian speculation that the terrorist attacks are a warning to Ankara not to get too friendly with either the Jewish State or especially, Russia and Iran.
Putin Unthaws Russian-Turkish Relations, Starting with Tourism
The news from Moscow, as summarized by the Turkish-friendly Qatar-based news outlet Al-Jazeera:
“Moscow is lifting travel restrictions on Russian tourists visiting Turkey after a period of diplomatic tension with plans to resume “mutually advantageous” trade relations.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that he asked his government to begin “the process of normalising general trade and economic ties with Turkey”, fixing badly strained relations since Ankara shot down a Russian warplane taking part in Moscow’s military campaign in Syria last year.
”I want to start with the question of tourism ... we are lifting the administrative restrictions in this area,” Putin told government ministers in televised comments.
Russian tourism to Turkey last month was down more than 90 percent year on year, according to figures by Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Overall tourism in Turkey was down about 35 percent last month compared with the same period last year, the ministry said. ”
The terrorists strike on the Istanbul airport for which the Turkish authorities and the CIA Director John Brennan are blaming ISIS clearly targeted the country's struggling tourist sector. Individuals from China, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Iran were among the foreigners killed in the attack. One small group of pre-teen Russian dancers coming from the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna were inside the airport during the explosion/s but thank God, escaped death or injury.
— Russia Insider (@RussiaInsider) June 30, 2016
Why is Detente Between Moscow and Ankara Happening Now? It's Primarily Economics
It seems odd to many Russians that Putin has chosen this moment after the terrorist event to announce the restoration of tourist ties which the Russian authorities had put on ice after the NATO member state's provocative shoot down of the SU-24 -- which many neocons and anti-Russian hardliners in the U.S. praised. Being ignorant regarding Russian-Turkish trade, neocons like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) or failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush didn't anticipate that the decision to show up the Russians would cost Ankara more than nine billion dollars in lost business.
Certainly the collapse in trade and tourism from Russia was not the only factor in the destabilization of Turkey's economy -- the number of German and other EU tourists declined somewhat too due to the conflict with the Kurds and negative PR impact on the Turks international reputation:
“Sharp deterioration in the socio-economic situation in Turkey forced Erdogan to take the first step to rapprochement with Moscow. It is expected that this year economic growth will be reduced to 3.5%. Last week the World Bank said that it is much lower than was recorded in the beginning of Erdogan’s reign. A sharp drop in tourism revenue after a series of explosions this year and unrest in the South-East of the country played a role.
Russian sanctions, the growth of a terrorist threat, the escalation with Kurds in the South of the country, deterioration of Turkey’s relations with the United States and the European Union because of refugees - all these factors have had a tremendous impact on the economy.
According to many experts, Turkish business elites have been dissatisfied with this situation and since the end of last year put pressure on Turkish leadership, especially Erdogan.
According to the Federal customs service (FCS), the trade turnover between Russia and Turkey amounted to more than $31 billion in 2014. By the end of 2015 it had dropped to $23.4 billion, and for the first four months of this year it amounted to only $4.8 billion. In fact, by the end of this year, the drop in trade can continue and the value of these losses could exceed $10 billion. Turkey estimates the damage from the deterioration of relations with Russia at 0.3–0.4% of GDP, or $9 billion. Such assessments were shared by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Shimshek in December 2015.
Turkey faced the biggest drop in the flow of foreign tourists in the last 17 years.
According to the Ministry of culture and tourism of Turkey, the number of foreign tourists in April 2016 fell by 28% compared to the same period in 2015: in April of this year, Turkey was visited by 1.75 million people – almost 700 thousand less than in April last year.
This is the most serious decline in tourist flow to Turkey since May 1999, when the PKK issued a warning to tourists, announcing the beginning of “retaliation” campaign of after the capture and imprisonment of their leader Abdullah Odjalan. ”
Neocons Overestimated Turkey's Capacity to Absorb Economic Pain for Taking on Russia
It would appear NATO's large Muslim member state can talk tough about defeating the Russians militarily in five days (whatever that means), but actually paying the price for being the neocons cannon fodder in a 'let's you and him fight over Syria' scenario or risking a humiliating defeat at Russia's hands is another matter. Furthermore, the Russians have noticed that Turkey has come under pressure from its EU partners, put in a very difficult position politically by the Brexit vote which the Remain camp acknowledged was driven in no small part by fears of the UK being flooded with Turkish and Muslim migrants.
The Remain campers/Eurocrats deny that any actual deal to bring Turkey into full EU membership with Schengen visa privileges rather than the associated status it signed with the European Community over forty years ago is or has been imminent. But as the Russian joke tweeted after the Brexit vote by the Guerrilla goes, "by 2030 the only members the EU will have are Turkey and Ukraine".
A listener to RM said it best. "The future EU will only be Turkey & Ukraine."
— Rogue Money (@theroguemoney) June 25, 2016
And today's comedy piece of the day!!! https://t.co/D3mYmkfu4f
— Rogue Money (@theroguemoney) June 29, 2016
Turkey's Immivasion Antics Have Caused Tremendous Problems for the EU/Merkel
Not only has Turkey's blackmail of the European Union by threatening the EU with hordes of Muslim migrants backfired, but the country's brutal crackdown on the Kurds in its southeastern regions bordering Iraq as well as insistence that the U.S.-aided YPG fighting ISIS are terrorists has created strains with Washington. The pro-greater Kurdistan faction after all, is quite strong in both D.C. and Tel Aviv.
In early June, the Bundestag delivered a rebuke to Chancellor Angela Merkel's policy of appeasing Ankara with billions of euros and EU visa free travel promises for Turks by voting to recognize the Armenian genocide. The reaction in highly nationalistic Turkey was predictable howls of rage and reminders of the Germans' Nazi past. Turks continue to view themselves as victims of both PKK and ISIS terror with few journalists in the present climate of intimidation and arrests having the guts to point out the obvious, that Ankara's security service the MIT as well as the broader social support for jihadism in Syria over the past five years has fueled the Daesh terror that now strikes Anatolia. Which brings us to the subject of terror -- both at home and abroad as part of the neo-Ottoman agenda for which ousted Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has been made the 'fall guy'.
Will the Turks Withdraw Support for the Anti-Assad Jihadists?
With Ankara Dependent on Saudi and Qatari Money, Don't Count on It
It's too soon to say whether Turkish military and intelligence agency support for the anti-Assad jihadists will diminish as a secret corollary to any renewal of trade ties with Russia. Attacks by the Qatari-funded Ahrar al-Sham terrorists and their Al-Qaeda in Syria Jabhat al Nusra allies in Latakia region near the Turkish border have been far less successful than advertised on 'Free Syrian Army' fanboy Twitter accounts.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been able to direct heavy artillery and rocket fire at the jihadists' positions around the Jabal al-Turkmen, no doubt aided in that area by direct fire support from Russian artillerymen and advisers. The ability of Russian Air Force Su-24/34 jets to perform multiple bombing sorties in a day or night due to the proximity to the Khmeimim Air Base has also foiled the latest rebel border offensive.
— BANKSTER SLAYER (@banksterslayer) June 29, 2016
In northern Aleppo the SAA's most accomplished unit the Tiger Forces are engaged in battle with Al Nusra and the AlCIAeda/Langley supported Zinki jihadist militia that has thus far, not been able to push the Assad loyalists back from the Mallah Farms area.
IF the Tiger Forces can continue to advance to the northeast and more importantly hold their ground against suicide VBIED and TOW missile attacks, they will likely cut the heavily bombed and shelled Castello road that represents the last major lifeline into the rebel held part of Aleppo. While storming the heavily urbanized and suicidally defended parts of the city is inadvisable for the SAA and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies, a slow siege will likely force the Turks' and Saudis proxies back to the negotiating table in Geneva. Encircling or cauldron-ing surviving rebel units would also free up scarce SAA manpower for renewed attacks where Latakia and Idlib provinces meet to further interdict the supply lines to the jihadis from Turkey.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Levant, after last week's failure of the SAA drive on the Taqba military airport which is the gateway to Raqqa, ISIS has humiliated the U.S. and Jordanian backed 'New Syrian Army' in eastern Deirezzor province along the Iraqi border this week. The only good news from the anti-ISIS campaign for now is that the SDF/Kurds up north have cut off the ISIS held city of Manbij from resupply via Turkey, and the Iraqis aided by U.S. air strikes are continuing to destroy Daesh resistance on the highways outside liberated Fallujah.
U.S.-backed rebels launched their first attack against Islamic State. They lost. https://t.co/REruor62Xx
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) June 29, 2016
If U.S/Jordanian backed Syrian rebels are unable to hold border crossings with Iraq against Daesh, then the likelihood of pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi'a militias coming to the aid of the SAA and their Hezbollah brothers in Syria after ISIS is crushed in Mosul increases -- as there won't be any U.S. supported Sunni 'blocking force' with American air cover to get in the way. Thus far like so many other 'train and equip' programs run by the CIA and Pentagon, this latest effort has been a failure, including The New York Times/WSJ damage control stories on Americans in Jordan killed Operation Fast and Furious or Benghazi blowback-style by weapons diverted from the rebels.
Closing Remarks: Can Turkey Be Brought Back to the Eurasian/New Silk Road Fold?
The re-opening of Russian markets to Turkish fruits and vegetables will definitely be one of the topics discussed by Sergey Lavrov and his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu when they meet in the Black Sea 2014 Winter Olympics hosting resort city of Sochi. However, Putin's renewal of the counter-EU sanctions against produce from the European Union through 2018 suggests that the Turkish tomatoes will only come back to Russian supermarket isles slowly this autumn and winter, and likely not all at once to allow domestic growers more time to prepare. Some observers such as RT Business or analyst Yury Barmin suggest that the aborted Turkstream pipeline is back on the agenda, but we think it's too soon to say so.
— BANKSTER SLAYER (@banksterslayer) June 29, 2016
Nonetheless, Erdogan being forced to apologize to the Russians by his own country's business community as well as making concessions to overcome isolation at the hands of Ankara's former partners -- Moscow, Washington, Jerusalem, Brussels and Berlin -- is a significant step.
Erdogan must change his geopolitical orientation https://t.co/VHTBd0xin0
— Alexandr Dugin (@A_G_Dugin) June 30, 2016
So too, is Putin's demonstrated willingness to forgive if not forget, which shows long term -- and likely Chinese New Silk Road initiative-influenced thinking -- about Turkey's future after Erdogan's presidency. A day that, as we've forecasted here at RogueMoney, is coming soon.