Alberta Politics
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Part I: What will NATO get up to in the north now that the chill is off between Russia and Turkey in the south?

Posted on August 15, 2016, 9:40 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: NATO pilots salute back in the day, when you could make a case there was actually a reason for the military alliance to exist. Below: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

MUNICH, Germany

Relations between Russia and Turkey have warmed noticeably since the deep chill that began between the two powers last November when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian fighter-bomber over Syria after it passed through Turkish air space for a few seconds.

The Russian leadership – and President Vladimir Putin must be given the credit, if only because he so often and reflexively personally given any blame assigned by Western opinion leaders – handled that development shrewdly, and has now reaped the benefits.

Vladimir_Putin_12023_(cropped)The warplane was downed well before some units of the Turkish armed forces tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month, and the coup’s failure was followed swiftly by rumours in Turkish media that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was behind the attempt to overthrow the government.

Whatever the truth of that is, it seems quite plausible – although this has for some reason not been reported very extensively in the West – that it was an 11th hour tip from the Russian security services, perhaps delivered by Mr. Putin himself, that allowed President Erdogan to escape the coup plotters with his life.

Certainly, when the Turkish and Russian leaders met in St. Petersburg a week ago to reboot their countries’ relationship, Mr. Erdogan used the opportunity afforded by his first trip abroad since the attempted coup to thank the Russian president for his timely help. Warmly referring to Mr. Putin as “my dear friend,” Mr. Erdogan said, with only a moderate degree of ambiguity about the timing, “your call straight after the coup was very pleasing for me and our leadership and our people.”

Recep_Tayyip_Erdoğan_June_2015Who knows about this kind of stuff? Certainly not us Western civilians, who are always the very last to be told if anything important is going on. Still, it’s an interesting factiod that while these things were first being rumoured, President Erdogan’s government arrested the two F-16 pilots who shot down the Russian jet for involvement in the coup.

If nothing else, President Erdogan certainly sounded grateful and relieved in St. Petersburg when he announced “a new milestone in bilateral relations, beginning with a clean slate,” between the two countries. “I personally, with all my heart and on behalf of the Turkish nation, salute Mr. Putin and all Russians,” he said.

At the very least we can assume Turkish holiday resorts will again be full of vacationing Russians and Russian cooks will again be serving Turkish vegetables, normal bilateral activities that stopped for a spell when the chill set in last fall.

As esoteric as this Russian-Turkish rapprochement may seem in North America, this is an important matter to Canada and Canadians because we are playing a growing role in NATO’s ever more fraught contest with Russia in the north even as the chill between Russia and our Turkish NATO allies dissipates in the south.

As the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported after last week’s St. Petersburg summit, the detente between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has “jangled nerves” at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels – which means it’s also setting off alarm bells in NATO’s real headquarters in Washington.

In the long term, this may mean additional problems with his armed forces for Mr. Erdogan, since, geopolitically speaking, Turkey occupies too important a piece of real estate ever to be allowed to leave NATO, which turns out to be harder to quit than the old Warsaw Pact.

Whether or not NATO or Washington had anything to do with the last coup attempt, if past behaviour is any guide, they could well have something to do with the next one if Turkey’s relations with Russia continue to improve.

Lacking much justification for its existence since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO has been searching for a meaningful mission ever since, settling first on adventures in the Muslim world and lately on reconstituting a new Cold War with Russia.

Given the historical predilections of military men with time on their hands and conservative politicians with voters to distract, there’s a strong possibility that if NATO’s leaders decide Russia is making gains in the south, they’ll get up to mischief in the north.

Indeed, they are already doing just that, with their increasingly aggressive activities in the Baltic region, for which as we will see in the next post there is no strategic justification whatsoever.

That not only puts Canadian soldiers, many of them from my Alberta home town, in danger, but Canadians themselves if we allow ourselves to forget we live in an era of nuclear weapons and drift toward a war for which there is no reason.

August in Europe may be an appropriate time and place to think about such things!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

19 Comments to: Part I: What will NATO get up to in the north now that the chill is off between Russia and Turkey in the south?

  1. Ron

    August 15th, 2016

    Nasty Putin. Setting-up his Russian borders so close to the new NATO bases.
    It’s not like Russia was ever attacked by the West, eh?

    Reply
    • pogo

      August 16th, 2016

      Ok then! I’ll see you’re “Nasty Putin” and raise you a Kissinger, a Nixon, a Cheney, a Rumsfeld, and two… Bushes! Just in case you call my bet, consider this! I still have a Truman a Reagan and… an Oliver North!

      Reply
  2. August 15th, 2016

    Putin is colonizing what ever and who ever will allow it. If not by armed forces by stealth and sharp politics; quite different from the US gun diplomacy.It’s almost as of Putin takes on new territories to bait NATO and the US specifically. They don’t play rough with China.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      August 15th, 2016

      Sorry, what territories has Russia “taken” under Mr. Putin?

      Reply
      • August 15th, 2016

        Well, there was Chechnya located in Georgia; The Crimea in general while doing an end run on Czechoslovakia while being fully integrated with Iran and several incursions into the “Canadian Arctic”. They are very busy around the globe, arming Uganda.

        Reply
      • Jim

        August 15th, 2016

        Syria, no wait they were invited by the internationally recognized gov’t. Crimea, well there was that whole referendum and they did have a base already there which surprise surprise had soldiers in it. Georgia, didn’t take any territory there. Ukrainian break away republics, still waiting on evidence beyond take our word for it and let’s ignore their history. They do have about 10 military installations in other countries, not quite the 660+ US ones.

        Reply
        • TC

          August 18th, 2016

          Are you saying that the Crimea referendum was held freely and fairly?

          Reply
          • Jim

            August 19th, 2016

            According to the international observers present yes.

  3. The Red Tory

    August 15th, 2016

    Dave,

    I really don’t get your continued support and apologies for two repressive strongmen who routinely jail activists for political and social justice reasons. If a western government had anything close to the track record that these two do, you would be rightfully be all over them. I would be quite interested in how you can explain this double standard. I can only imagine the fun you would have had if Harper or Bush put out a picture like this gem which is Putin showing off his manhood so to speak.

    http://www.comtourist.com/images/large/who-is-mista-putin/vladimir-putin-010.jpg

    You are correct in one part in this post, Putin is shrewd. He sure has you played.

    Reply
    • Kang the barbarian

      August 16th, 2016

      Suggesting Canadians act like grown ups and avoid getting entangled in pointless military provocations is hardly supporting anybody or anything but basic good sense as would getting out of NATO asap. NORAD is a separate question.

      Any confrontation between the US and Russia will make Canada into a radioactive ash tray.

      Reply
      • TC

        August 18th, 2016

        The UK and France also did nothing when the Germans wanted Sudetenland in 1938. I’m not advocating that our country mindlessly start a war with a nuclear power, but don’t cut and run when someone takes the fight to you and your allies.

        Reply
    • jay

      August 18th, 2016

      I don’t understand it either. I consider myself a progressive politically, but what have Putin and Erdogan got to do with progressive change? They’re both strongmen of various stripes of fascism. I’m sympathetic to most of your arguments re: politics in Alberta and Canada, but on this subject you sound like the western apologists for Stalin in the ’30s. Sorry to say this.

      Reply
    • TC

      August 20th, 2016

      The writer in this article (alongside others written about Russia) demonstrate classic leftist views of international relations: the United States and its allies are on the wrong side of every conflict except for World War II. They’re also sympathetic to most enemies (be it diplomatic or ideological) of the United States.

      I’m not suggesting that the West is perfect, but they’re the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, the writer provides great insight to Alberta and Canadian federal politics. However, while the writer is entitled to write on whatever topic he likes, his writings on international affairs greatly diminishes the quality of his blog.

      Reply
  4. NOT a troll paid by the Kremlin

    August 15th, 2016

    Yes, hyello, I am nyormal kyanadian eenternet komentor and I jyust want to say thet I also think NATO is as bad as Putin, but also, actually, putin isn’t really that bad.

    Reply
  5. Sassy

    August 17th, 2016

    Thanks for this article Dave. You’re right, we get so very little information about what is going on in this area and the real purpose and goals for our military involvement. I think the top ‘players’ on both sides have their agendas and we are only getting the smallest glimpses. Looking forward to your next vacation post.

    Reply
  6. jerrymacgp

    August 17th, 2016

    Sir: I’m afraid I’m disappointed by your continual apologism (is that a word?) for the kleptocracy that is the Putin government. Yes, it’s true, we’re not facing a new Cold War. That was an existential global conflict between two competing ideologies: one, Communism, that wanted to spread its influence and philosophy to every continent of the world; and the other, Capitalism, that already had and felt threatened.

    Putin and his gang are not ideological. Current Russian expansionism is nothing more than the 19th-century international politics of Empire. That doesn’t make it less of a threat. It’s just that the threat only exists along or adjacent to the Russian frontiers, not far removed from the motherland.

    Reply
  7. TC

    August 18th, 2016

    While I’m also in the opinion that Putin is very shrewd, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to stay in power in a country that doesn’t usually remove their leader peacefully.

    However, I don’t quite share that appreciation as much as the writer. The current economic situation in Russia is partly caused by diplomatic sanctions, which is caused by Putin alone.

    Reply
    • Northern Loon

      August 19th, 2016

      So Putin is putting diplomatic sanctions on himself and his population? Generally sanctions require at least two parties and the West/NATO involvement in imposing these sanctions shouldn’t be ignored.

      Reply
      • TC

        August 20th, 2016

        Please excuse my poorly worded comment.

        I meant to say: His government’s action in Ukraine are the cause of these diplomatic sanctions, which is hurting his country economically.

        Reply

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