This is How the Long Game is Played

I’ve long marveled at the capacity of the Russians to play the Long Game. This includes the ability to provoke at the right point, absorb painful setbacks, feign defeat and then come roaring back consolidating their gains on the geostrategic battlefield.

Syria is one such battlefield, Ukraine is another. First, let us consider the consolidation of the eastern Ukraine by the Russians.

Oh, you haven’t heard? While no one was looking, Vladimir Putin got the eastern part of that country. It’s a fait accompli and the Crimea is no longer landlocked by the Kievan junta. (Many thanks to LewRockwell.com, sputniknews.com, Zerohedge.com and The Vineyard of the Saker. All excellent websites.)

There were no parades, no proclamations, no announcements. But yet it was done.

And how was it done? Several weeks ago, the Russian Federation recognized several documents that were put out by Donbass separatists. In a nutshell, all identification documents held by the people of that part of Ukraine would be sufficient for travel to and from (and within Russia). Just like my Oklahoma driver’s licence allows me to fly to Hawaii and to fly (or sail) from Honolulu to Maui.

It gets better. All industry in the East is now nationalized. This means that Hunter Biden won’t be able to drill for shale oil there. The Kiev government has closed down the border from the separatist regions, effectively recognizing that line as the real border. What this means is that the new border between Ukraine and Russia has now shifted several hundred miles to the West (of Russia). All land within that border is now “Novorossiya”. Perhaps most important of all, the Russian ruble is now the only legal currency there. It goes without saying that all taxes on all industry in Novorossiya will now go to Moscow, not Kiev.

Petro Poroshenko, the President of the Ukrainian state (put in through a Neocon coup it should be remembered), is not pleased. He personally complained to Vice President Mike Pence who for his part promised “to hold Russian to account” but nobody is going to hold their breath. We’ll discuss more of what that means below but for now, the Anglosphere is not taking Poroshenko’s concerns seriously. For proof, we can consider the fact that Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister, who was recently in Kiev, “was focusing exclusively on the upcoming Eurovision competition, and not on the dramatic developments taking place in the southeast”.

And lest anyone think otherwise, they are dramatic. As noted above, “Novorossiya” is for all intents and purposes an integral part of the Russian Federation.

Even if the Kievan junta doesn’t officially recognize the new de facto border, the idea that it could mount a military offensive against the separatists is now out of the question. For one, it doesn’t have the resources or the manpower to reclaim those areas. Second, no one in Kiev who’s in their right minds wants to provoke Putin. Third, the entire Ukrainian economy is a basket case. The southeastern regions are in just as bad a shape. Finally, there is no way that the President Trump is on board with spilling American blood and spending American treasure for a country right on Russia’s doorstep. Ain’t gonna happen. Even if (through some miracle) Kiev were take them back , they would be saddled with an even worse financial situation, this one with the added irritant of having to control a surly, violent, pro-Russian population.

But this is where it gets especially delicious: Vladimir Putin doesn’t want anybody to officially recognize the separatists regions as an integral part of Russia –at least not yet. Why? Because as long as part of Ukraine is “occupied” the rest of Ukraine cannot join NATO. This is for the same reason that Putin cleaved off parts of Georgia after their provocation of Russia back in 2008. According to the NATO charter, no country can join it if there are irredentist claims against it or if any part of its land is in secession. (Hear that California: now’s your chance!)

So how can we state with a great deal of confidence that Pence was merely lending an ear to Poroshenko? How do we know that he didn’t rush back to Washington with baited breath and immediately start laying plans for the next Operation Barbarossa? Good question. For that, we must look further south, to Syria.

Though Syria is far from pacified, the fact remains that Russia is calling all the shots there. According to gulfnews.com, the Russians are “openly working with the Kurds to obstruct Erdogan’s buffer-zone”.

A little back-story: six months ago, both Putin and Turkish President Erdogan had agreed in principle to “an endgame” when they met in St Petersburg. A careful arrangement was constructed in which each player (Russia and Turkey) would agree to turn a blind eye while each country’s military created certain buffer zones. Assad would remain as president of a rump Syrian state and Turkey would have a Turkish-controlled (and Kurdish-free) buffer zone in which it could repatriate the 2.3 million Syrian refugees currently living on Turkish soil. It was actually working quite well as long as both parties held to their side of the bargain.

Unfortunately, nobody expected the election of Trump last November. With the new American President, Erdogan saw a way out of the bargain in that he thought that he could bend Trump to his side. To that end, he started marching on territory that was to be part of Russia’s sphere of influence.

Unfortunately for Erdogan, his assessment of Trump proved to be premature. Russia struck back by “hammering out an agreement with the Manbij Military Council, a branch the [Syrian Defense Forces], whereby the Kurdish militia would hand over control of several villages west of Manjib to the Syrian Army”. In effect, this nullified the Turkish sphere of influence significantly. More importantly, Putin was now openly working with the Kurds. This of course is bad news for Turkey in that the much-feared Kurdish Question has now reared its head. (A full one-quarter of the Turkish population is actually Kurdish and their incipient nationalism has long been smothered by the Turks.)

The bad news for Turkey didn’t stop there. In late February, the CIA met with the “moderate” Syrian rebels giving them an ultimatum to “unite or else”. This meant that the writing was on the wall for them. By most accounts, it is now clear that the US is no longer going to bankroll the Syrian rebels. It’s all over but the shouting. Besides, the US is laying plans to attack ISIS and those aren’t going to come to completion without Putin’s support.

As for Erdogan, he spoke personally to Trump on the telephone “asking for US cover to prevent Kurdish advances on Al Raqqa…[n]ot only did Trump refuse to commit, but provided the SDF, at their request, with anti-tank weapons, mine detectors and other military equipment.” In other words, Trump did the exact opposite of what Erdogan wished. This was nothing less than a slap in the face.

Therefore the endgame is no longer between Erdogan and Putin in regards to Syria but between Trump and Putin. And Trump appears to have thrown in his lot with Putin and Assad. Given such a scenario, it is extremely doubtful that the US will make any noises regarding the cleavage of the Ukrainian state by Russia. And so the EU along with the rest of NATO, will have “deal with it”.

Comments

  1. Excellent article. Thanks.

  2. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says:

    “cleft.”

    • The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart,”Who will bring me down to the ground?”-Obadiah 1:3 (Who indeed your Grace)

      • M. Stankovich says:

        Exodus 33:22 “And when my glory shall pass by, then I will put you into a cleft [στήσῃ – singular female noun] of the rock [ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας], and I will cover you over with my hand, until I shall have passed by.” (Vladyka Tikhon, indeed, Dino).

        Ἑὐλόγειte, Δέσποτα! Always a great honor and pleasure, Vladyka.

        • AH, Professor Sophia,

          Even the wise and noble owl must lower itself, and sustain itself with a lowly dirty rat. Thanks for coming down from your high perch, and lowering yourself to me.

  3. George,

    I’m impressed. Excellent insight and analysis. Both conflicts had started to bore me since regardless of the details it was clear that Russia was in a good position and now that Trump is in office there would not be any further serious obstacles to Russia’s vision in the areas. Your piece nicely fleshes out what seems to be crystalizing.

  4. Pat Teague says:

    George,

    You may remember our “Ukrainian daughter” Katie, who lived with us nearly ten years. She now lives with her British husband in London, and is a British citizen herself. Her father, who is a special friend, and family all still live in Zaporozhye. Sergey is an engineering manager for a very large company there employing several thousand. His company is closed nearly half the year due to the natural gas crisis, and due to a severely decreased amount of business. How far does west the Novorossia border extend?

  5. Pat Reardon says:

    Thank you, George. Much of this I knew already, but your comments on Turkey provided new information I had not had.

  6. http://russia-insider.com/en/putin-calmly-explains-why-liberals-hate-russia-video/ri19147

    This should be replayed throughout the American evangelical community, it captures the spirit of the revival of Christendom nicely.

    Meanwhile, in other news, Judicial Watch has filed suit to obtain everything the CIA, Department of Justice and Department of Treasury have regarding wiretaps of Trump and his key advisors during the campaign:

    http://ijr.com/2017/03/819117-judicial-watch-says-trump-on-to-something-about-wiretap-complaints-is-suing-cia-to-get-records/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Owned&utm_term=ijamerica&utm_campaign=ods&utm_content=Politics

    Sen. Lindsey Graham is going after some of the same information with senate subpoenas.

    http://www.salon.com/2017/03/09/sheldon-whitehouse-lindsey-graham-want-subpoenas-to-investigate-president-trumps-wiretapping-claims/

    Fun and games!

  7. Joseph Lipper says:

    George, please forgive me, I’ve re-edited this here:

    If Turkey has been pushed out of Syria, then with a reported 2.8 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey, this could lead to very bad news for Greece.

    The EU is about to change dramatically.

    After Britain officially initiates Brexit with “Article 50”, expected sometime next week, the remaining heads of the EU countries will meet on 24th of March with Pope Francis. Pope Francis is now the most popular and respected authority in the EU, and they want him to publicly bless their vision of a new Europe. Jean Claude Junker, the European Council President, will by that time have presented the currently secret details of the new EU plan. The details are secret because Junker is waiting for Britain to leave the room.

    When the details of this new plan are announced, it is expected that a two-speed EU will emerge, an EU having two different cores: each core having it’s own military and free movement, and both cores sharing a common currency and market.

    Most likely those two cores will represent a Western Europe and an Eastern Europe. Germany, Italy, and France will naturally be the core of Western Europe.

    My guess is that Turkey will be invited to join as the core of the Eastern EU. Turkey has the second largest military in NATO by personnel. Without Britain, Brussels needs that military protection, at least as a buffer zone. My guess is that Brussels and Pope Francis will sell-out Eastern Europe and effectively give it to Turkey. It could very well be this was the plan all along.

    The Western core of the EU doesn’t want to deal with the 2.8 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and they also need to absolve themselves of Greece’s debt problem. By creating a separate Eastern European core as it’s own separate free movement Schengen zone, but still sharing a common EU currency and market, Brussels could invite Turkey into the EU without having to worry about the refugees coming into their Western core. All the debt of Eastern Europe would be consolidated with Turkey at the helm. Cyprus would be reunited.

    Turkey’s president Erdogan has a crucial election scheduled on April 16th ( also happens to be Orthodox Pascha as well as Western Easter). He hopes this election will make him Turkey’s dictator. With the current chaotic state of things in Turkey, something dramatic has to happen very soon for him to win the popular support.

    It could be that the new Eastern Core of the EU will have semblance to a neo-ottoman empire. This is exactly the ticket Erdogan needs to win the election, because it will justify everything he has been doing. He will become Sultan of Turkey and Eastern Europe.

    http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/10/513819/EU-post-Brexit-plan

    • Jim of Olym says:

      Greece should tell the EU to go to hell and go back to the drachma. what would Germany do except pout and posture? Will they invade Greece again? I think not. The EU is dead but not dying yet. Should have stayed an economic union without the fake euro currency, but what do I know, I’m just a US know it all. Back to francs, and all the other nationalist coin. Would be a good thin.

  8. Joseph Lipper says:

    The UN and the EU both seem to be making such a fuss about re-uniting Cyprus. They want a political solution to this, but the only way that seems even possible is if Turkey somehow joins the EU.

    Turkey won’t withdraw it’s military from Cyprus. This appears to be the biggest obstacle to reunification. However, if Turkey joins the EU, then their military in Cyprus would be an EU army. Turkish Cyprus would then automatically become an EU presence. Both the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus would then be part of the EU, and reuniting them together would just be a formality. Cyprus also has natural gas deposits that surround the island, so it seems there is an economic incentive to reuniting the island as well. Make no mistake though, that path to reunification would be the Turkification of Cyprus.

    So how would Turkey join the EU? France and Germany have both clearly stated that Turkey is not ready to join the EU as it stands. However, with the idea that is currently being floated of a post-Brexit multi-speed EU, this would enable Turkey to join the EU at a different “speed”.

    There is scheduled a major announcement on this later in the month:

    https://euobserver.com/institutional/137118

    Personally, I am wondering if the EU will grant Turkey immediate access to the Euro by consolidating Greece’s debt with Turkey. The EU needs to do something with Greece’s debt, something different than a write-off. If they do this, it will solve their problem, but it will also mean the Turkification of Greece.

  9. Joseph Lipper says:

    Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, now has the full ability to file Article 50 to initiate Brexit from the EU. Just last week she spoke about wanting to initiate this as soon as possible, and the EU wants her to file this as soon as possible. The EU leaders have an important meeting with Pope Francis on the 24th on the subject of European Unity, and an informal summit the next day to highlight their plans for a new post-Brexit “multi-speed” Europe.

    Suddenly, May is now saying that she will file at the end of the month, after this summit happens. How can the EU have their summit on post-Brexit European Unity before Brexit is even initiated?

    This seems to be a negotiating tactic. The irony is that the EU wants her to file Brexit before their summit on European Unity, and the sooner the better. They can’t wait for her to leave! There is something that May wants, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

    http://www.politico.eu/article/theresa-may-brexit-poker-face-article-50-europe-brussels-negotiation/amp/

  10. Joseph Lipper says:

    It seems we are getting closer and closer to the return of the legendary Great Catholic Monarch:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Roman_Emperor

    Some have said that this will be the resurrected six-fingered king, St. Ioannis Vatatzis, whose incorrupt relics are hidden, according to legend, somewhere near Istanbul:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/the-marble-king-john-theologoumena-of-geronda-ephraim/amp/

    Hellas will rise again!

    • Michael Bauman says:

      Will the risen Hellas use Confederate money?

      • Joseph Lipper says:

        According to apocalyptic literature, the risen Hellas will not be the result of a civil war. Instead, it will come in the aftermath of World War 3 and the decimation of half the planet. It will be God’s merciful providence before the Anti-Christ is given all authority on earth.

        It is not just Elder Ephraim who says this, but many saints have attested that this will happen.

  11. The analysis in this piece is highly significant. This is some of the best writing about the current global economic picture and America’s place in it that I have seen:

    https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/02/the-new-shape-of-globalization/

    When you put it all together with pieces like this . . . :

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/cbos-prophecies-demystified-1489446596?mod=e2two

    . . . it is very difficult not to conclude that Progressive Liberals are lying, totalitarian dogs.

  12. https://www.wsj.com/articles/reach-across-the-aisle-mr-president-1489705420?

    Peggy Noonan may be right in this observation. When we are talking about something that is not war, or personal morality, but rather economics, Trump needs to remember that he did not really run on conservative spending policies. Bringing the Democrats in on this is probably the first step toward establishing a “bipartisan economic consensus” and replacing our dueling party system with a dominant party system. It seems paradoxical, but the policy is what is important, not the party delivering it. Since Trump is a Republican, he will own the success and this will gradually change the Republican party from the stingy party to the reasonable redistribution party.

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