Putin wants Russia to become world’s organic food superpower but first hopes to clip Turkey’s wings
How quickly times change. In late September, Recep Tayyip Erdogan ventured to Moscow for the inauguration of the city’s new Grand Mosque. Said to have cost $170 million, it can accommodate 10,000 people and is one of Europe’s biggest. Many locals view the Grand Mosque as a sign of Russian tolerance. Proof that Islam can be successfully integrated into a largely Christian society. Erdogan was well received in Moscow. Back then Turkey was viewed as a friendly country.
While Russia remains mostly impervious to sectarianism, it is almost uniformly hostile to Erdogan since Turkey shot down a Russian plane last week. Right now, the sight of Turkey’s President in Moscow would be about as welcome as a snow flurry in July. Ankara’s days as trusted partner of the Kremlin have abruptly ended.
Most Russia pundits in the Western press suggested that Putin’s response to Turkish aggression would be heavy on verbiage and light on action. That hypothesis was way off the mark. This dispute is evidently personal for the Russian President. Putin feels that Erdogan’s government stabbed Russia in the back. Thus, the Kremlin will have its vengeance.
Speaking at Thursday’s annual address to Russia’s parliament, Putin stated: “If someone thinks they can commit war crimes, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, as well as a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional.”
In other words, the Kremlin is preparing a punishment of some sort for Turkey. Whether that means waiting in the long grass or striking swiftly is unclear. There are numerous options open to Moscow. Putin’s government could decide to further assist Kurdish forces in the Middle East, but that risks alienating Baghdad. Revenge could mean further strikes against Ankara’s favored ‘Turkmen’ insurgents in Northern Syria. Another option is to prove, beyond any doubt, that Erdogan’s associates are working hand-in-glove with ISIS and profiting from terrorism. Nevertheless, the most proportionate, if geopolitically risky, response would probably be to shoot down any Turkish jets that stray into Syrian airspace. To that end, Russia has deployed the latest anti-aircraft technology, effectively imposing a no-fly zone.
The danger of a unipolar world
Putin’s address opened with mention of “fighting international terrorism”. He proceeded to remind listeners that Russia had endured its effects first-hand over the years. The President outlined that the present Syria campaign was “a fight for freedom, truth and justice”.
A frequent theme of numerous Putin speeches, going back to his famous 2007 remarks in Munich has been concern at an American desire to control the planet unilaterally. Back then he declared: “…What is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making. It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”
That theme hasn’t changed. “Iraq, Libya and Syria have turned into zones of chaos and anarchy which threaten the whole world,” he said on Thursday. “And, of course, we know why this happened. We know who wanted to change inconvenient regimes, and crudely impose their rules. And what was the result? They made a mess, ruined the states, turned different peoples against each other and then, as we say in Russia, washed their hands of the places, opening the road for radicals, extremists and terrorists.”
Tons and tons of newspaper articles, intelligence reports, academic texts and journals are published each year in the US focused on what Putin wants. There’s a cottage industry online which debates it hourly, let alone daily or weekly. Dozens of academics and journalists have made a living out of ‘Putinology’. However, it’s pretty clear from the man’s words what he wants and has wanted for at least eight years. Putin is pushing for a multipolar world. One where the United Nations, rather than Washington, dictates the rules of the game.
Speaking Thursday, Putin called again for a “broad coalition” to fight ISIS. Of course, while France appears to favor this idea, Washington has furiously worked to derail it. Such an outcome would diminish
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