Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ukraine's revengeful revolution

It is not exactly clear what the Ukrainian government wants in the East of the country. At the one hand Yatsenyuk is asking for dialogue. At the other hand he is sending troops, including locally despised Right Sektor guys, has called the protests "terrorism" and has announced draconian anti-terrorism laws, has flatly rejected calls for federalism and has announced a harsh crackdown on the Eastern protests.

It is a pattern that the Maidan revolution has shown from the beginning. The talk never really covered the action.

The Maidan uprising

The uprising started as a protest against the refusal of Yanukovich to sign the DCFTA Treaty with the EU. Yet opinion polls showed that only 43% of the population supported signing that treaty. There were good reasons to oppose the treaty: it would open the Ukrainian market for EU products but did not offer any financial help or visa liberalization. That meant that Ukraine would face a wave of factory closings at the same time it faced an IMF "cure". The treaty would also open the EU market for Ukrainian products, but to make use of that opportunity many industries will first need to make major investments so that they can produce according to EU standards. Hard to do in a time when there is little money available. And it unlikely that there will be much foreign investment given Ukraine's reputation for corruption. So it was not surprising that after some time the protests subsided.

The next wave of protests came after Yanukovich announced some legislation that regulated protests. Although minor parts were rather restrictive and probably inspired from the Russian example, most of it was just common sense and common in Western countries. In no Western capital, for example, it would be accepted that protesters kept the main square occupied for months.

A third wave arose after during a shooting on the Maidan dozens of people had been killed. The protesters accused Yanukovich, who has always denied. His denials got some support due to the leaked Ashton-Paet telephone conversation where Estonian minister of foreign affairs Paet tells that during a stay in Kiev he was told by a doctor that victims from both sides had the same type of gun wounds - what raised the suspicion that one shooter had targeted both sides. Paet called for an investigation. There is an investigation but it seems very partial and refuses even to keep the family of those who were shot informed. Instead the new government in Kiev has destroyed evidence by cutting bullets-ridden trees in central Kiev.

In the end the focus of the protests came on the corruption of Yanukovich and the lack of economic growth under his reign. This resonated well with the population, who is disgusted by the corruption. However, as the Maidan protesters are dominated by oligarchs too, it is a rather weak argument. Yatsenyuk tried to make it a major issue by claiming that his government would commit "political suicide" by taking a lot of unpopular but necessary measures. Close to two months after he rose to power we have yet to see anything beyond announced IMF measures. Instead of efforts to make the state more efficient so that the budget cuts can be less severe we see the opposite: a boycott of Transdniester that costs Ukraine money, extra expenses for the army and a confrontational policy with the East that keeps tension high and investment low.

The one thing that remained constant during the protests was that it was against Yanukovich. They protested against someone, not for something. This and their methods showed great similarity with the color revolutions. And indeed it has been reported that many of the people involved in the Maidan Revolution were also involved in the 2005 Orange Revolution. And just as in 2005 now too there have been claims that the uprising was coordinated from the US embassy.

Another aspect of the revolution was treacherousness. First the insurgents used an armistice to occupy government buildings in other cities. And when an agreement was made for early elections they used the agreed withdrawal of security forces as an opportunity to grab power immediately. This didn't show much respect for the other side. More importantly perhaps, it created a climate of contempt and distrust that clouds the present situation.

Revolutionary revenge

When the revolution had acquired power it didn't start an extensive reform program. Neither did it make any effort to make up with those it had vanquished so that the situation stabilized and the country could refocus again on its economy. Instead we saw a revengeful revolution. Many people have been fired from their jobs for being pro-Yanukovich. And despite the fact that Yanukovich's relations with Russia were mediocre he was painted as a Russian pawn and the revolutionaries indulged in a number of anti-Russian measures. They initiated a boycott against Transdniester, adopted a law to degrade the status of the Russian language (stopped by the president) and fielded proposals to throw the Russians out of their Crimean bases on some flimsy pretext.

We are told that in May there will be presidential elections so that from then on there can be no doubt about the legality of the president. However, this legality will be doubtful when the elections take place in a climate of violence and intimidation. Do we really believe that the people from Right Sektor would accept it if of a candidate from the Party of the Regions wins?

Trouble in the East

In March came the annexation of Crimea by Russia. We still don't know what motivated this. Had the Russians intelligence that Kiev's new rulers were serious about throwing them out of their bases? Were they really worried about maltreatment of Russians?

Another interpretation is that Russia expects that the new rulers will make Ukraine a kind of de facto NATO member and want to limit the damage. There are some indications that this might be indeed the case. The cleansing of the Ukrainian security sector is advertised as removing Russian spies but the effect is also to create the framework for a de facto West-Ukrainian dictatorship and that might be the real goal. The DCFTA agreement contains a clause that states a desire for "convergence of positions on bilateral,regional and international issues of mutual interest, taking into account the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)". This interpretation might explain the present events in East Ukraine. Full NATO membership is unlikely as that requires that a country has full control over its territory.

Another scenario is that Russia's primary goal is pressure to force Kiev to adopt a friendlier attitude. In that case Kiev's aggressive reaction in the East is counterproductive as it forces the pro-Russians to expand the building occupations in order to prevent them from being crushed. It antagonizes the population and might even force Russia to do further annexations.

The US plays an unclear role too. It could easily have encouraged Kiev to make a few small concessions to prevent the annexation of Crimea but it didn't. Except for some vague threats with sanctions it stayed calm. One explanation is that it may have wanted the annexation in order to drive a wedge between Russia and Ukraine. Given that the America's Russia policy is in the hands of known Russia haters that option cannot be excluded.

The government in Kiev shows some strange behavior too. It is under the influence of Russia hating extremists from West Ukraine so one can expect some anti-Russian policies. What is less easy to explain is why it never made any serious effort to make up with Russia. It gives me the impression that they are influenced by US advisers.

The armed operations of the Ukrainian government seems to me foolish. Even if they win they will leave the country so divided that it is de facto destroyed.


Kiev has shown very little desire for negotiations. Yatsenyuk has visited the East once and he has talked a bit about decentralization. But he hasn't produced any concrete proposals so he may well be just buying time. The fact that he simultaneously sent troops and even Right Sektor militia to East Ukraine seems to point to the latter. Neither does his talk about the protesters in the East as terrorists and the introduction of draconian anti-terror laws point to a desire for compromise. His flat rejection of federalization - that might help to limit the ethnic strife that helps the oligarchs to maintain control - doesn't show any openness to dialogue either.

The US claims that it wants negotiations too. But it says the same about Syria and we know how the US negotiates on that subject. Fact is that the US hasn't made a single move to push the Ukrainian government towards moderation. Its calls that Moscow should negotiate directly with Kiev sounded insincere as everyone knew that that implied recognition. It could easily have mediated initial contacts so that some common ground could be found on which such recognition could be based, but it didn't.

And so we have three parties - Russia, the Kiev government and the US - whose motives are not clear. That makes very difficult for the other parties to understand what they want to do. This opens the risk of misunderstandings and escalation.

If the Ukrainian government really wants to change the dynamics of the situation it should change its behavior:
- stop sending Right Sektor militia to the East and withdraw those that are there
- end the boycott of Transdniester
- involve the Party of the Regions in the government so that it becomes a national unity government
- stop firing people for being "pro-Yanukovich" or "pro-Russian"
- make a proposal for decentralization and introduce it now. Don't hide behind a referendum.
- stop introducing draconian anti-terror laws directed at those in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ukraine veterans causing problems

We read a lot in the Western press about Western Muslim extremists going to volunteer in support of the uprising in Syria and the fear that when they come back they might use their newly acquired fighting skills to make trouble in their homelands.

Now it appears that we have a similar problem with Ukraine. Western volunteers - mainly neo-fascists - have gone there to help the uprising and now the first report of them making trouble back home has appeared.

Fascist knife attack in Malmö, Sweden on the night of International Women's Day

Late last night [8 March] several people were attacked in central Malmö by members of the fascist Svenskarnas Parti (Swedes Party). They were on their way home after having taken part in celebrations for International Women's Day.
According to witnesses at the scene, a high ranking member of the Swedes Party - Andreas Carlsson, was involved in the attempted murder. He was seen attacking feminists with a knife. Andreas Carlsson is one of the members of the Swedes Party who travelled down to Kiev as "Ukrainafrivilliga" (Ukraine Volunteers) to support the Svoboda party's efforts in taking power. On Realisten he has reported on the Swedish Nationalist delegation's operation.Some of the delegations participants have stayed, according to their own reports, "to enlist in the Ukrainian army", while Carlsson's group returned to Sweden only a few days before the 8th of March.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Peace between Israel and Palestinians not possible now

I don't believe that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is possible at the moment. It would mean that the Palestinians would have to publicly resign to the theft of their lands. The wounds are simply too fresh for that. It will take decades before that changes. On the other hand it is understandable that the Israeli's won't sign an agreement when the Palestinians see that only as a step to bring them closer to victory. They have been burned twice this way already: first after the Oslo Agreements and then after their withdrawal from Gaza.

Instead I believe the focus should be on how the Israeli's treat the Palestinians. The continuing theft of Palestinian land on the West Bank and the economic blockade of Gaza and to a lesser extent also the West Bank are both unfair and a violation of international law.

Unfortunately the Palestinians have little leverage to change their situation outside violence and seeking international recognition. But neither will be really helpful. Violence will only backfire - like it has done in the past - and worsen their position. More international recognition is nice but the US will do anything to prevent that it really hurts. Outside pressure by the US could do the job for the Palestinians to at least improve their lives but unfortunately Obama is wasting his leverage on vainglorious peace talks instead of aiming for concrete goals.

Israel should gradually reduce its presence on the West Bank. However, to prevent any triumphalism on the Palestinian side, this should happen gradually.

In the mean time the whole negotiations look more and more like a shadow play where both sides try to avoid to be blamed in the press for obstructing the negotiations.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Turkey considers starting war with Syria with false flag operation

Many Western media have reported that Turkey is forbidding Youtube. Unfortunately few have discussed the two videos that is the reason for that prohibition. As the Today's Zaman website has already disappeared I think it is important to spread the text as wide as possible.

The video is an allegedly leaked phone conversation between intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, FM Ahmet Davutoğlu, FM undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and General Yaşar Güler. They discuss the possibility of false flag attack on the Suleiman Shah Tomb that should serve as an excuse to invade Syria.

Suleiman Shah Tomb is a Turkish enclave in Syria's Raqqa province some 35 kilometer from the Turkish border. It is the assumed grave of the grandfather of the first Turkish sultan. When Syria was separated from Turkey Turkey was allowed to keep this grave. It is guarded by some 25 Turkish soldiers and officially Turkish territory.

Raqqa province is mostly ISIS territory and ISIS has made some threats against the grave. Yet the gentlemen in the phone conversation see that only as an opportunity.

Translated transcript:


Ahmet Davutoğlu:
“Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen
as an opportunity for us.”
Hakan Fidan:
“I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile
attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”
Feridun Sinirlioğlu:
“Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”
Yaşar Güler:
“It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”

Ahmet Davutoğlu: I couldn’t entirely understand the other thing; what exactly does our foreign
ministry supposed to do? No, I’m not talking about the thing. There are other things we’re supposed
to do. If we decide on this, we are to notify the United Nations, the Istanbul Consulate of the Syrian
regime, right?
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: But if we decide on an operation in there, it should create a shocking effect. I
mean, if we are going to do so. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but regardless of what we
decide, I don’t think it’d be appropriate to notify anyone beforehand.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: OK, but we’re gonna have to prepare somehow. To avoid any shorts on regarding
international law. I just realized when I was talking to the president (Abdullah Gül), if the Turkish
tanks go in there, it means we’re in there in any case, right?
Yaşar Güler: It means we’re in, yes.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yeah, but there’s a difference between going in with aircraft and going in with


Yaşar Güler: Maybe we can tell the Syrian consulate general that, ISIL is currently working alongside
the regime, and that place is Turkish land. We should definitely…
Ahmet Davutoğlu: But we have already said that, sent them several diplomatic notes.
Yaşar Güler: To Syria… Feridun Sinirlioğlu: That’s right.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yes, we’ve sent them countless times. Therefore, I’d like to know what our Chief
of Staff’s expectations from our ministry.
Yaşar Güler: Maybe his intent was to say that, I don’t really know, he met with Mr. Fidan.
Hakan Fidan: Well, he did mention that part but we didn’t go into any further details.
Yaşar Güler: Maybe that was what he meant… A diplomatic note to Syria?
Hakan Fidan: Maybe the Foreign Ministry is assigned with coordination…


Ahmet Davutoğlu: I mean, I could coordinate the diplomacy but civil war, the military…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: That’s what I told back there. For one thing, the situation is different. An
operation on ISIL has solid ground on international law. We’re going to portray this is Al-Qaeda,
there’s no distress there if it’s a matter regarding Al-Qaeda. And if it comes to defending Suleiman
Shah Tomb, that’s a matter of protecting our land.
Yaşar Güler: We don’t have any problems with that.
Hakan Fidan: Second after it happens, it’ll cause a great internal commotion (several bombing events
is bound to happen within). The border is not under control…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: I mean, yes, the bombings are of course going to happen. But I remember our
talk from 3 years ago…
Yaşar Güler: Mr. Fidan should urgently receive back-up and we need to help him supply guns and
ammo to rebels. We need to speak with the minister. Our Interior Minister, our Defense Minister.
We need to talk about this and reach a resolution sir.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: How did we get specials forces into action when there was a threat in Northern
Iraq? We should have done so in there, too. We should have trained those men. We should have sent
men. Anyway, we can’t do that, we can only do what diplomacy…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: I told you back then, for God’s sake, general, you know how we managed to get
those tanks in, you were there.
Yaşar Güler: What, you mean our stuff?
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Yes, how do you think we’ve managed to rally our tanks into Iraq? How? How did
manage to get special forces, the battalions in? I was involved in that. Let me be clear, there was no
government decision on that, we have managed that just with a single order.


Yaşar Güler: Well, I agree with you. For one thing, we’re not even discussing that. But there are
different things that Syria can do right now. Ahmet Davutoğlu: General, the reason we’re saying no this operation is because we know about the
capacity of those men.
Yaşar Güler: Look, sir, isn’t MKE (Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation) at minister’s
bidding? Sir, I mean, Qatar is looking for ammo to buy in cash. Ready cash. So, why don’t they just
get it done? It’s at Mr. Minister’s command.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: But there’s the spot we can’t act integratedly, we can’t coordinate.
Yaşar Güler: Then, our Prime Minister can summon both Mr. Defence Minister and Mr. Minister at
the same time. Then he can directly talk to them.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: We, Mr. Siniroğlu and I, have literally begged Mr. Prime Minster for a private
meeting, we said that things were not looking so bright.


Yaşar Güler: Also, it doesn’t have to be crowded meeting. Yourself, Mr. Defence Minister, Mr.
Interior Minister and our Chief of Staff, the four of you are enough. There’s no need for a crowd.
Because, sir, the main need there is guns and ammo. Not even guns, mainly ammo. We’ve just talked
about this, sir. Let’s say we’re building an army down there, 1000 strong. If we get them into that war
without previously storing a minimum of 6-months’ worth of ammo, these men will return to us after
two months.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: They’re back already.
Yaşar Güler: They’ll return to us, sir.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: They’ve came back from… What was it? Çobanbey.
Yaşar Güler: Yes, indeed, sir. This matter can’t be just a burden on Mr. Fidan’s shoulders as it is now.

It’s unacceptable. I mean, we can’t understand this. Why?


Ahmet Davutoğlu: That evening we’d reached a resolution. And I thought that things were taking a
turn for the good. Our…
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: We issued the MGK (National Security Council) resolution the day after. Then we
talked with the general…
Ahmet Davutoğlu: And the other forces really do a good follow up on this weakness of ours. You say
that you’re going to capture this place, and that men being there constitutes a risk factor. You pull
them back. You capture the place. You reinforce it and send in your troops again.
Yaşar Güler: Exactly, sir. You’re absolutely right.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Right? That’s how I interpret it. But after the evacuation, this is not a military
necessity. It’s a whole other thing.


Feridun Siniroğlu: There are some serious shifts in global and regional geopolitics. It now can spread
to other places. You said it yourself today, and others agreed… We’re headed to a different game
now. We should be able to see those. That ISIL and all that jazz, all those organizations are extremely
open to manipulation. Having a region made up of organizations of similar nature will constitute a
vital security risk for us. And when we first went into Northern Iraq, there was always the risk of PKK
blowing up the place. If we thoroughly consider the risks and substantiate… As the general just said…
Yaşar Güler: Sir, when you were inside a moment ago, we were discussing just that. Openly. I mean,
armed forces are a “tool” necessary for you in every turn.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Of course. I always tell the Prime Minister, in your absence, the same thing in
academic jargon, you can’t stay in those lands without hard power. Without hard power, there can
be no soft power.


Yaşar Güler: Sir.
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: The national security has been politicized. I don’t remember anything like this in
Turkish political history. It has become a matter of domestic policy. All talks we’ve done on defending
our lands, our border security, our sovereign lands in there, they’ve all become a common, cheap
domestic policy outfit.
Yaşar Güler: Exactly.
Feridun Siniroğlu: That has never happened before. Unfortunately but…
Yaşar Güler: I mean, do even one of the opposition parties support you in such a high point of
national security? Sir, is this a justifiable sense of national security?
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: I don’t even remember such a period.


Yaşar Güler: In what matter can we be unified, if not a matter of national security of such
importance? None.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: The year 2012, we didn’t do it 2011. If only we’d took serious action back then,
even in the summer of 2012.
Feridun Sinirlioğlu: They were at their lowest back in 2012.
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Internally, they were just like Libya. Who comes in and goes from power is not of
any importance to us. But some things…
Yaşar Güler: Sir, to avoid any confusion, our need in 2011 was guns and ammo. In 2012, 2013 and
today also. We’re in the exact same point. We absolutely need to find this and secure that place. Ahmet Davutoğlu: Guns and ammo are not a big need for that place. Because we couldn’t get the
human factor in order…



Yaşar Güler: I mean on which subject will we be able to act together? If we can’t act together for national security, on which subject will we act together? None.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: We did not do it on 2012, 2011. If we could make bold decisions on 2012..

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: They were at their weakest on 2012.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: It was like Libya inside. People were rising and falling and changing but it wasn’t our concern.

Yaşar Güler: Sir don’t get me wrong, in 2011 our primary needs were guns and ammo. It’s was the same in 2012 and 2013. We are still at the same point. We need to find them and save this place.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Guns and ammo are not needed that much there. We couldn’t organize the people, that’s why…


Hakan Fidan: We sent about 2000 trucks full of supply there.

Yaşar Güler: I think guns are not needed there. My personal view is that ammo is needed. Yes sir. Mr. Hakan is here, we said that we could send one general. Mr. Hakan wanted this too. We designated a general and sent him.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: To be practical, I think our defense minister should sign the documents needed for our people as soon as possible.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Actually tonight…

Yaşar Güler: Tonight sir, we have no problem.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Operation is ordered for tonight.

Yaşar Güler: We sent an operation order message, Mr. Hakan may have knowledge.


Ahmet Davutoğlu: Hakan, if send tanks what are the possible complications?

Hakan Fidan: Without coordination, if we don’t take the power balance into account…

Yaşar Güler: That’s why we want MIT’s cooperation sir.

Hakan Fidan: It’s not possible without armed personnel and capacity.

Yaşar Güler: That’s why we stipulate MIT coordination. There is nothing you should be worried about tonight or for the future. But there is something we must solve in the long run.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: I think about that thing as an option but we couldn’t convince those people. We are planning to enter with tanks. We need to consider ourselves at war after that, but between entering war and that we are operating.


Yaşar Güler: It’s an act of war. What we are going to do is directly an act of war.

Hakan Fidan: Not with Syria.

Yaşar Güler: No the man…

Hakan Fidan: But my point is; we know that two plus two is four. Now if we, I mean that thing there has no strategic importance to us but it’s about our image. I mean if we are going to enter war, let’s plan it and do it. Now my…

Yaşar Güler: We are saying the same thing since day one.


Hakan Fidan: What I can’t accept is, now if we consider using weapons for a tomb like Suleyman Shah, I mean as just 10 acres of Turkish land we risk using weapons, for 22-28 soldiers there, there are thousands of kilometers of Turkish soil, millions of poeple near the border, that why we don’t take that risk.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: There is an excuse for that…

Hakan Fidan: Using that as an excuse is different.

Yaşar Güler: Foreign Ministry can not find an excuse for the other thing but we can for this…

Hakan Fidan: Look, I’ll tell you something…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Between us, on the phone prime minister said this (an attack on Suleyman Shah Tomb) must be utilized as an opportunity in this conjuncture.

Hakan Fidan: General look, if we need an excuse I can send four men to the other side, send eight rockets to an empty ground. It’s no problem. We can produce reason. We just need such will. We are displaying a will for war, then we make the same mistake we always do, we think too much.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Now it’s ten acres of land. 10 acres of Turkish soil is a great excuse in international law, as for legitimacy if we attack ISIL all the world will back this operation. There is no hesitation.

Yaşar Güler: We have no hesitation.


Feridun Sinirlioğlu: No, I’m saying this to all of us, I mean on that matter…

Yaşar Güler: Our forces there have been ready and waiting for a year sir. It’s not a measure we took yesterday, they have been there for one year.

Hakan Fidan: Why are we waiting for Suleyman Shah, I don’t get it?

Ahmet Davutoğlu: We made every possible diplomatic move.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: We need an excuse, a solid excuse.

Hakan Fidan: I can produce that, no problem.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Producing is another thing, there is already a solid excuse.

Hakan Fidan: We can attack there (Tomb of Suleyman Shah) if needed, we can make them attack there. What I’m trying to understand is…


Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Of course these can be done, we can do everything.

Hakan Fidan: If we are ready to use these, let’s designate time and place and do it.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Hakan, if you mean there is a lack of strategy and that’s why we need to produce reason, you are right. Against these men…

Official: Sir before that thing happens…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Ok we’ll move there, I’ll be coming. We cannot tell US foreign ministry again that we need to take harsh measures.

Hakan Fidan: Now sir, what I mean is…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: They will tell us that we couldn’t defend our own lend. We had friendly conversations before, Kerry asked me if we had decided to use force several times before.


Yaşar Güler: Sir we gave, we gave a hundred times. With America…

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Three days ago general staff held an emergency meeting. I’m seeing that for the first time. The Americans…

Yaşar Güler: No, we do that all the time!

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: No no, Americans distributed No Fly Zone plans in this meeting. Did you know that?

Hakan Fidan: Sir if we are ready to make such an important decision now about the Tomb of Suleyman Shah…

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: No, not just Suleyman Shah.


Hakan Fidan: What I’m saying is, if we are ready to do that, we should have made the decision by now. Because of the threats and profits. I mean weakness as a state and strategic decisions…

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yes if we did make taht decision on a smaller scale before, we wouldn’t have been forced to make this one today.

Yaşar Güler: No wait, we did make that decision.

Hakan Fidan: It wasn’t carried out.

Yaşar Güler: We can’t carry it out, we are paralyzed for several reasons sir, that’s our problem. State instruments are not working right now.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Let me be clear; I’ll be looking at my own side, the state manners I was trained for dictates that. Would you accept that if someone told the Foreign Ministry that things are not working because of political debates…


Ahmet Davutoğlu: Such a thing wouldn’t be legitimate! Everyone will carry out what they must with resolution. What would you do if an ambassador told you “They are taking everyone in sir, they might take me in too!”? Won’t we tell him to retire and bring someone else who can do the job? It’s how we should look at this situation. That’s how democracy works.

Yaşar Güler: You are right sir.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Now the state is driven by a few people and agencies who can make proper decisions. This is…

Yaşar Güler: Definitely sir, definitely.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Are we going to give up on this?

Yaşar Güler: No sir, we won’t give up.

Ahmet Davutoğlu: Ok, whatever. Let’s move to the other place.

Another transcipt - with both Turkish and English text - can be found here.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Creating facts on the ground

The Western policy towards Ukraine is reminding me more and more of what went went wrong in Yugoslavia. Then as now we see Western countries addicted to creating facts on the ground. And while that sometimes may be a quick way to achieve desired changes there is always a risk that the other side doesn't give in and starts applying the same tactic. And then you are on the brink of war.

In Yugoslavia it started with the secession of Croatia and Slovenia. These republics seceded without following the procedures specified in the Yugoslav constitution that specified mutual agreement. They got support from the Western countries in the form of the "advice" of the Badinter Commission that declared Yugoslavia in "dissolution". Problems arose when the Serbs started to apply similar unilateral tactics.

I don't want to put all the blame on the unilateral secession of Croatia and Slovenia. Before that there were other unilateral acts like Milosevic's takeovers in Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvodina and his grab into the national bank account. My point is rather that this is an unacceptable type of behavior in modern society and that the Western countries should have gotten the local parties together to find new common rules.

We now see similar processes in Ukraine. First we had the secession of Crimea that very likely was triggered by attempts to throw the Russian navy out of their bases. It may be years - if ever - before we hear the true story. But the first Ukrainian parliamentarians had already asked for a closure of the bases and found all kinds of easy excuses. What happened behind the screens is unknown to us but will have been known to Russian intelligence. But it is clear that the Americans have a huge influence on the present Ukrainian government and are playing dangerous games.

A similar dirty scenario is also playing out regarding Transnistria. Ukraine has closed its border with this area. That puts Transnistria under pressure to make up with Moldova as that is the only other neighbor it has. In the mean time we hear the Americans uttering all kinds of threats and warnings towards the Russians not to interfere.

It looks like we have a madman in the White House who likes to see how close he can get to World War III without falling into it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strobe Talbott's take on Kosovo

The Washington Post has an OpEd by Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration (To understand Putin, look to the past). He offers an interesting view of what happened behind the screens when the Russians occupied the Pristina Airport shortly after the end of the war.

To end the crisis, Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent an envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, to Belgrade to pressure Milosevic into withdrawing his troops from Kosovo and accepting an international peacekeeping force that would include Russian units under U.S. command so as not to be formally part of NATO.

In June 1999, I led a team from the State Department, White House and Pentagon to coordinate final plans for the operation. Soon after landing, we sensed trouble. Chernomyrdin was politically isolated. His military minder, Gen. Leonid Ivashov, was in virtual mutiny against the deal on joint Russian-NATO deployment.

Yeltsin, we were told, was “indisposed,” a word accompanied by knowing looks that translated as drunk. The civilian officials we met with were visibly unnerved at the possibility of a military coup.

The one exception was Putin, whom I met for the first time. As head of the Kremlin security council, he was on the first rung of the ladder he would climb quickly to the presidency.

In our meeting, he managed to seem both relaxed and on guard. He subtly but unmistakably put distance between himself and Chernomyrdin. His personal touches were pointed. For no reason other than to show he had read my KGB dossier, he dropped the names of two Russian poets I had studied in college.

During the meeting, my State Department colleague Victoria Nuland (now assistant secretary of state for Europe) passed me a note saying that Gen. Ivashov had just issued a threat to our Pentagon companions — who were in a meeting at the defense ministry — that the Russian army might break from NATO and deploy into Kosovo on its own, thereby turning what was supposed to be a collaborative operation into a confrontation.

When I read Nuland’s note aloud, Putin smugly waved it off and feigned puzzlement about who Ivashov was, which was patently implausible. His overall message was twofold: He knew details from my distant past but wasn’t going to let me know anything about what was happening in the here and now — or what would happen next.

Within hours, several small Russian units that had been monitoring the cease-fire in Bosnia dashed across southern Serbia into Kosovo, cheered as saviors by Serbs along the way.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a denial and then a lame statement about how the rogue operation was an accident. The Russian contingent hunkered down at an airfield outside the capital of Kosovo, while a multinational NATO force rolled in from Macedonia. What looked at first to be a mouse-that-roared farce turned dangerous when it appeared that the Russian military might airlift reinforcements and trigger a shooting war.

Yeltsin reemerged, none too steadily, in time to defuse the crisis and put the original deal back on track. Not until nine years later did Kosovo declare its independence. And, of course, it has not been annexed by Albania.

Putin’s role in that narrowly avoided military collision 15 years ago remains a mystery, but his attitude was clear then and relevant today. During a dangerous power vacuum in Moscow — when partnership between Russia and the West was at the breaking point; when Russian armed forces, fed up with having to make nice with NATO, took matters into their own hands and tried to rush to the aid of fellow Slavs — Yeltsin’s soon-to-be handpicked successor seemed to be relishing the moment.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The downside of sanctions against Russia

Sanctions are blackmail. And - as is well known - giving in to blackmail often leads to more blackmail.

This is the dilemma that we see now developing in crisis around Russia and Ukraine. Putin cannot afford to give in to threats with sanctions as that will only lead to more calls for sanctions on other subjects. So it looks like instead he is raising the stakes in the hope that that may force the Americans to finally get real about negotiations.

Unfortunately it looks like both Kerry and Merkel are completely wrapped up in their own logic that the coup in Ukraine was a genuine and legal revolution and that they simply don't understand that Putin sees that differently.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


I recently read Michael Moore's autobiography "Here comes trouble". In it he tells what happened after he movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" came out. Republican spin doctors studied its effect and found that it had considerable influence on how people thought about Bush and how they planned to vote in the next presidential elections. So they decided that the only thing that would work was to blacken the image or Moore and his movie so much that no well-thinking Republican would even think about going to see it. They did this with quite some success.

Of course this is not the first time such a strategy is used. One can still find some old Republicans who can get red hot about Roosevelt's New Deal. And more recently the same strategy has been employed against Obamacare.

How the Palestinians are selfdestructing

It is well known that Israel keeps stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank and keeps obstructing the Palestinian economy. As a result the BDS movement that wants to stop investment and economic relations with Israeli firms and institutions that are active on the West Bank is increasing strength in Europe and to a lesser extent also in the US.

Yet this has had little effect among the Jewish population in Israel. There few believe in peace with the Palestinians and most want it only under strong conditions.

The Palestinians can only thank themselves for this. After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and after the Oslo Agreement that brought a partial withdrawal from the West Bank they saw an increase in Palestinian violence. So they have become skeptical.

The Palestinians claim that they have recognized Israel. They have: on paper. But they like to keep believing that one day that Jewish state will be gone. For them withdrawal is only a sign of weakness that invites to bring on more pressure. This attitude can also be seen in Palestinian school books that keep a very negative view of Israel.

Truly recognizing Israel will mean accepting that most Palestinians will never return to Israel. It will mean recognizing that they will never get back the houses and lands that were stolen from them in 1948 or 1967. It means recognizing that Israel is and will stay a Jewish majority state. Yes, it is unfair. But sometimes life is unfair. Thinking that a better deal is available is fooling yourself.