November 08, 2019

Managed chaos: Russia’s deal with Turkey on northern Syria



Commentary

Gustav Gressel 

3rd November, 2019

Kremlin - ©

Source:    ecfr.eu

Russia is now in charge of a multi-front war. It will need to manage relations between multiple local actors very carefully.

Following their meeting in Sochi on 23 October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced a ceasefire deal for northern Syria. The agreement laid the foundation for extending Bashar al-Assad’s rule over north-eastern Syria, secured the Russian military presence across the whole country, and formalised the Turkish military deployment in the region close to its northern border. For the Kremlin, the agreement signals that the Russian-backed regime has conclusively won the war in Syria.

Few in the West expected this victory when Russia intervened in the Syrian war in September 2015. Moscow’s goals were to ensure the survival of the Assad regime and reduce US influence in Syria – but the extent to which this would be possible was unclear. Victory then fell into Putin’s lap after both the Obama and Trump administrations failed to create a coherent strategy on the conflict. The latter’s erratic manoeuvres also prevented any European country from easing the burden on US forces deployed to Syria.

Putin likely sees the close strategic alliance he forged with Erdogan after the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016 as instrumental to Moscow’s victory. This alliance led to the launch of the Astana peace process with Turkey and Iran – thereby killing off the Geneva talks, which, unlike those in Astana, involved US-backed forces. While the Astana process did not immediately produce results, it prevented any political settlement in line with Washington’s interests. Yet even this diplomatic victory would not change the fact that US-backed forces controlled north-eastern Syria. Because it had no means to remove US forces on its own, Russia feared that, in the long term, the United States could use the area to stage further military action against Assad.

In its military campaign against Syrian opposition forces, Russia prioritised operations in western Syria. Meanwhile, the Turkish operation against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin served as a template for further cooperation between Russia and Turkey. Military pressure from both countries pushed Kurdish forces out of the area, granting Turkey a foothold near its southern border and helping Russia prevent the US from establishing a military presence in western Syria.

Turkey’s attempts to use Islamist fighters against Kurds in north-eastern Syria are a gift to Russia.


Idlib province – which was controlled by opposition forces that included Turkish-backed Islamist fighters, some of them extremists – was the other rebel stronghold in Syria. Assad wanted to regain control of the area but could only do so through a massive use of force and by engaging in ethnic cleansing there, as the conservative Sunni population would hardly accept the presence of regime troops. Moreover, Idlib’s terrain is poorly suited to the kind of mechanised warfare for which Russian military advisers have trained the Syrian army. To defeat the rebels in Idlib, Russia would have to weigh in with more of its own forces – a move that the Kremlin would find difficult to justify to a domestic audience.

Turkey’s attempts to use these Islamist fighters against Kurds in north-eastern Syria (thereby drawing the fighters away from Idlib) – and its alleged plans to use Sunni refugees from across Syria to replace the Kurdish population in the area – are a gift to Russia. These moves could not only allow Assad to advance into Idlib, but could also intensify military pressure on the Kurds in the north-east, increasing tension between Turkey and its key NATO ally, the US. Therefore, Putin had no reason to dissuade Erdogan from launching the Turkish incursion into northern Syria.

The Trump administration’s abrupt withdrawal of the American protective umbrella from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) presented Russia with more unexpected risks and opportunities. The withdrawal left the Kurds so vulnerable that they accepted Russian and regime forces as a deterrent against the Turkish military in north-eastern Syria. To maintain pressure on the Kurds, Moscow reconfirmed the 1998 Adana agreement between Syria and Turkey, allowing Ankara to cross the border to crush Kurdish forces. This left the SDF at the mercy of whoever was willing to protect it. While the group could fend off the Islamist fighters Turkey uses as a proxy force, it had little chance against the regular Turkish army.

This has left Moscow with the issue of how to deal with the SDF. The Kremlin likely does not trust anyone who once cooperated with the Americans. In the coming months, it would not be surprising if key SDF leaders fell victim to accidents or voluntarily sought exile, to be replaced by personnel more loyal to Moscow. The flexible arrangements of temporary ceasefires and the loosely defined arrangement of Turkish-Russian “joint patrols” provide ample room to Moscow to negotiate a transition of power. So far, Assad’s forces have moved into north-eastern Syria while taking up positions far from the “safe zone” that Ankara aspires to control. For the time being, they are neither an intervention force nor a deterrent – but they have moved east. Although these forces might take on such roles in the future, this will depend on the deal they get.

In the meantime, the Turkish incursion has paused but not ended. Turkey has put its alleged plans for ethnic cleansing on hold (partly due to the public outcry in the West), but has not abandoned them. In this environment, Moscow can intensify military pressure on the Kurds if it feels the need to do so. Moscow still wants to avoid the burden of controlling eastern Syria directly through its military but, for now, it lacks the proxy structures to do so.

Russia entered the war fearing an American campaign of regime change. It had the strategic advantage of concentrating its efforts on the single objective of protecting Assad, meaning that it only had to blunt diplomatic and military efforts to unseat him reactively. Now, given that it is in charge of a multi-front war, Russia will need to manage relations between multiple local actors very carefully. The Kremlin likely never anticipated that it would take up such a prominent role.

Russia will not only have to deal with the Kurds as they try to preserve as much independence from it as they can afford, but will also have to manage Iranian-Israeli clashes. Iran, Israel, and Turkey are all in a position to undermine Moscow’s efforts but unable to control events in Syria using only their own resources. Thus, there is little reason to think that Syria will become any more stable in the coming months.

November 03, 2019

Jallianwala Bagh - Why did Indians fire on Indians?

I lived in Hong Kong for some years. One of the facts I observed was that Hong Kongers by and large do not like Indians and many of them even hate us. Whether an Indian goes on to look for a home or on the streets to buy groceries, the feeling is palpable. Many Indians I talked to said that they felt it rather strongly. I had asked several people but got no satisfactory answer.

Finally, I asked a local friend about the reason. He was a historian at one of Hong Kong’s University. At first he tried to deny that this existed but then later said the roots of it were historical.

*“Do you know,”* he said, *“the British came to Hong Kong in 1841 and when they tried to build the first police force with the help of locals, they realized that the loyalty of the locals could not be trusted to follow their orders or shoot and kill if their fellow brethren revolted or were a rebellion. But they realized that they didn’t have the same experience in India. So they brought the Indians.*

*The first batch of Indians, who came brutalized and tortured the people here. The memory still lives in the mind of every person here and we haven’t forgiven you for it and will never do,”* he said in a deeply emotional voice.

*“You Indians followed orders and didn’t show any mercy towards us, which we expected you would do.”*

I could only apologize to him and said that it was an injustice. But what he had said left me perturbed. In social sciences *‘the other’* is a term that denotes how human beings divide, create walls with other groups, whom they perceive as not similar to them and even inferior.

For the American *‘the other’* is everyone, who is outside America. For the British everyone who is not White and outside the country is *‘the other’.* For the man from Pakistan it has become the Indian. Same can be said of the Chinese. But the curious thing for Indians is that for many an Indians *‘the other’* is not an outsider but another Indian only with whom his deepest chasm lies. He is someone whom we make into an enemy.

*“You Indians, you have done it with your own people, like in Jallianwala Bagh. That is how the British controlled your nation for two centuries, isn’t it?”*

The historian’s words have stayed with me since then.

In one of his books, Amitav Ghosh, the author, writes that the British believed that the Indians could always be relied upon to ruthlessly put down any one whether their own in India or anywhere else on their orders, something they could never imagine doing with anyone else. Would a Japanese be ever trusted to fire on its own people on the orders of a foreign General? Would a Chinese army have done so when asked? I believe the answer is a big no.

As one ex-General from the former British Indian army said,

*“The British were masters in making the Indian people believe that they were fighting on the side of the truth and so when the Indians fought a fellow Indian they saw him as evil and felt little or no guilt in killing him.”*

Is that why even today we are deeply divided, can torture a fellow Indian and feel little empathy, even shoot at him or beat him to death?

Why did we Indians create *‘the other’* amongst each other and not outside like other nations do?

Once, a British historian, on the mention of Jallianwala Bagh, said that a British police force or army would never shoot at its own people if asked to do so.

Why did we Indians did it then? I believe it is worth finding an answer to this dilemma.

Why didn’t the police force refuse to follow Michael Dyer’s orders and not shoot at their own people? This maybe is one of the most poignant and perplexing questions in understanding why British could rule India.

Has the notion of *‘the other’* as one we can hate and eliminate always existed amongst us in our history and as one that the British only perfected when they came in contact with us? I wish to ask this on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh, if we as a society created a gap within that can cause fissures and we can again be ordered into maniacal behavior on the orders of a white man or woman.

Did we carry our philosophy of *‘ Vasundhara eva kutumbakam’* too far and become like the subjects in Milgram’s experiment?

Jallianwala Bagh to me appears to be not the action of a deranged, crazy lunatic General, but of a psychopath who knew this weakness of Indians only too well, who understood this mindset in us. He knew that when ordered to fire, the men wouldn’t stop because the cries of their own country men would have no effect on them. This philosophy, sick and dangerous, may need to be addressed and understood that may lead us to kill each other or destroy. Will it ever lead us to become a united cohesive nation and not hold us back?

Creating *‘the other’* and making him into an enemy is dehumanizing which has just not only been symbolic, making us slaves but also making us lose what is the most precious, our freedom. It delineated us from the power that rightfully belonged to us as a nation.

Last year we visited the Jallianwala Bagh. There were hundreds of people *laughing, talking and taking pictures. No single face looked solemn.* Only some seemed curious looking at the Well or the Bullet marks on the wall. Where does this detachment from our history comes from?

Slavery dehumanized us Indians. As we know from history, no group cedes its privileges over others out of altruism but is forced to do so when the privileges they enjoy begin to threaten their survival. Gandhi could never do that to the British. Only once during the INA Trials and the Naval Revolt, it happened when the idea of one Indian being separate from *‘the other’* got erased terrifying the British into thinking it might bring their annihilation in India.

Will the present generation erase this blot? In it perhaps lies the safety that will make our future generations safe from the contradictions that pushed our ancestors into slavery and annihilating each other.

-Rajat Mitra,
Psychologist and Author of *‘The Infidel Next Door’*

Jallianwala Bagh - Why did Indians fire on Indians?

I lived in Hong Kong for some years. One of the facts I observed was that Hong Kongers by and large do not like Indians and many of them even hate us. Whether an Indian goes on to look for a home or on the streets to buy groceries, the feeling is palpable. Many Indians I talked to said that they felt it rather strongly. I had asked several people but got no satisfactory answer.

Finally, I asked a local friend about the reason. He was a historian at one of Hong Kong’s University. At first he tried to deny that this existed but then later said the roots of it were historical.

*“Do you know,”* he said, *“the British came to Hong Kong in 1841 and when they tried to build the first police force with the help of locals, they realized that the loyalty of the locals could not be trusted to follow their orders or shoot and kill if their fellow brethren revolted or were a rebellion. But they realized that they didn’t have the same experience in India. So they brought the Indians.*

*The first batch of Indians, who came brutalized and tortured the people here. The memory still lives in the mind of every person here and we haven’t forgiven you for it and will never do,”* he said in a deeply emotional voice.

*“You Indians followed orders and didn’t show any mercy towards us, which we expected you would do.”*

I could only apologize to him and said that it was an injustice. But what he had said left me perturbed. In social sciences *‘the other’* is a term that denotes how human beings divide, create walls with other groups, whom they perceive as not similar to them and even inferior.

For the American *‘the other’* is everyone, who is outside America. For the British everyone who is not White and outside the country is *‘the other’.* For the man from Pakistan it has become the Indian. Same can be said of the Chinese. But the curious thing for Indians is that for many an Indians *‘the other’* is not an outsider but another Indian only with whom his deepest chasm lies. He is someone whom we make into an enemy.

*“You Indians, you have done it with your own people, like in Jallianwala Bagh. That is how the British controlled your nation for two centuries, isn’t it?”*

The historian’s words have stayed with me since then.

In one of his books, Amitav Ghosh, the author, writes that the British believed that the Indians could always be relied upon to ruthlessly put down any one whether their own in India or anywhere else on their orders, something they could never imagine doing with anyone else. Would a Japanese be ever trusted to fire on its own people on the orders of a foreign General? Would a Chinese army have done so when asked? I believe the answer is a big no.

As one ex-General from the former British Indian army said,

*“The British were masters in making the Indian people believe that they were fighting on the side of the truth and so when the Indians fought a fellow Indian they saw him as evil and felt little or no guilt in killing him.”*

Is that why even today we are deeply divided, can torture a fellow Indian and feel little empathy, even shoot at him or beat him to death?

Why did we Indians create *‘the other’* amongst each other and not outside like other nations do?

Once, a British historian, on the mention of Jallianwala Bagh, said that a British police force or army would never shoot at its own people if asked to do so.

Why did we Indians did it then? I believe it is worth finding an answer to this dilemma.

Why didn’t the police force refuse to follow Michael Dyer’s orders and not shoot at their own people? This maybe is one of the most poignant and perplexing questions in understanding why British could rule India.

Has the notion of *‘the other’* as one we can hate and eliminate always existed amongst us in our history and as one that the British only perfected when they came in contact with us? I wish to ask this on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh, if we as a society created a gap within that can cause fissures and we can again be ordered into maniacal behavior on the orders of a white man or woman.

Did we carry our philosophy of *‘ Vasundhara eva kutumbakam’* too far and become like the subjects in Milgram’s experiment?

Jallianwala Bagh to me appears to be not the action of a deranged, crazy lunatic General, but of a psychopath who knew this weakness of Indians only too well, who understood this mindset in us. He knew that when ordered to fire, the men wouldn’t stop because the cries of their own country men would have no effect on them. This philosophy, sick and dangerous, may need to be addressed and understood that may lead us to kill each other or destroy. Will it ever lead us to become a united cohesive nation and not hold us back?

Creating *‘the other’* and making him into an enemy is dehumanizing which has just not only been symbolic, making us slaves but also making us lose what is the most precious, our freedom. It delineated us from the power that rightfully belonged to us as a nation.

Last year we visited the Jallianwala Bagh. There were hundreds of people *laughing, talking and taking pictures. No single face looked solemn.* Only some seemed curious looking at the Well or the Bullet marks on the wall. Where does this detachment from our history comes from?

Slavery dehumanized us Indians. As we know from history, no group cedes its privileges over others out of altruism but is forced to do so when the privileges they enjoy begin to threaten their survival. Gandhi could never do that to the British. Only once during the INA Trials and the Naval Revolt, it happened when the idea of one Indian being separate from *‘the other’* got erased terrifying the British into thinking it might bring their annihilation in India.

Will the present generation erase this blot? In it perhaps lies the safety that will make our future generations safe from the contradictions that pushed our ancestors into slavery and annihilating each other.

-Rajat Mitra,
Psychologist and Author of *‘The Infidel Next Door’*

October 22, 2019

Japanese official Tadashi Maeda dismisses China’s Belt and Road Initiative as just a ‘political show’


Diplomacy

Japanese official Tadashi Maeda dismisses China’s Belt and Road Initiative as just a ‘political show’

Tokyo hopes its China-containment project will eventually include Taiwan as a participant, says the governor of the Japan Bank for International CooperationTadashi Maeda says Japan’s own strategy ‘is based on three pillars: promotion of the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade’

Topic | China-Japan relations

Lee Jeong-ho

Published: 6:25am, 18 Oct, 2019

Updated: 11:04pm, 18 Oct, 2019

China’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, the Belt and Road Initiative, is a “political show” that lacks real substance, the head of Japan’s international development agency said on Thursday, adding that Japan ultimately hopes to include Taiwan as a participant in its China-containment project.

 

Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Tadashi Maeda, governor of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), criticised the belt and road project, saying it lacked real “programmes” to help the developing world.

 

“BRI is just a political show, and there is no clear definition of what it is exactly … it’s just everywhere,” Maeda said of the initiative, which spans multiple continents.

 

“I think China does not fully understand” sustainability issues and other implications involved with the projects, including climate changes, he said, also noting that some belt and road participants suffer from heavy debt loads related to projects in their countries.

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Japan is concerned that the belt and road projects are accelerating China’s growing global clout, and both Japanese and US leaders worry that the initiative could ultimately change the economic order enjoyed by the traditional powers.

 

China’s initiative, which began in 2013, has long faced international scrutiny. Beijing has been accused of using it to further its political agenda and to attain more power and influence amid its rivalry with the US.

As criticism grew, Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted last year that Beijing was adjusting its strategy in promoting the project, saying that his New Silk Road plan was not about creating a “China club” but was meant to improve the quality of lives for people of the partnering countries.

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Japan keen to do business in Africa as China extends reach

“[Japan's initiative] is different. It is based on three pillars: promotion of the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade,” said Maeda, who formerly served as a special adviser to the Japanese cabinet.

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Chasing China, Japan looks to Africa for trade and global influence

“In some sense, this is a counterproposal to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.”

 

The Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy is Japan’s version of the plan, and Maeda said Tokyo was paying special attention to the “treatment of Taiwan” as it develops further.

“I had private meetings with a national security adviser of Taiwan, and also the foreign minister of Taiwan” about Taipei’s participation in the project, Maeda said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has suggested that Beijing is adjusting its strategy in promoting the belt and road project, which has come under criticism. Photo: Reuters

“Taiwan has already engaged [the Japan-led economic initiatives] on a transaction-by-transaction level [from] a year ago,” he added without elaborating.

 

Maeda said that Japan “cannot invite Taiwan as an official partner”, but that it was possible for the self-ruled island to take part in the China-containment strategy on a transactional level.

 

“Transaction-by-transaction would enable Taiwan to take part in the project” in supporting FOIP, he added.

The difference between Indo Pacific and Asia-Pacific? The US and China

The term “Indo-Pacific” first emerged as regional strategic framework in US politics in 2010 when then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton used it to signal renewed American interest in the area.

 

The approach was reinforced in 2016 when FOIP was introduced. The US government further articulated the concept in 2017, stressing the need to combine military and geoeconomic goals to contain China’s military expansion, as well as to provide alternative development models to the Belt and Road Initiative.

 

Timothy Heath, a former analyst at US Pacific Command who is now a senior international defence researcher at the RAND Corporation, said the US would likely “welcome a stronger Taiwan role in Japan’s FOIP programme”.

 

“The message this sends is that the United States and Japan are willing to work with Taiwan and others to bolster the FOIP, even if this antagonises China,” he said. “A closer Taiwan partnership with Japan and the US also weakens Beijing’s hopes of peacefully coercing Taiwan into unification.”

How Japan is countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative

John Sitilides, geopolitical strategist at Trilogy Advisors in Washington, said Taiwan’s participation “will have little direct impact on China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative”.

 

“Ultimately, Tokyo’s message to Beijing is predicated on the necessary economic, political and diplomatic engagement of the world’s second largest economy just several hundred miles across the East China Sea,” Sitilides said.

 

“At the same time, Japan will retain and further consolidate its independent foreign and defence policies, alliances and trade agreements, including opportunities for greater trade benefits with Taiwan, while granting formal diplomatic recognition only for the People’s Republic of China.”

 

The shared goal for Tokyo and Washington, he said, “would be to check China’s assertive regional growth and power projection strategies”.




https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3033470/top-japanese-bank-official-tadashi-maeda-dismisses-chinas-belt